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OKLAHOMA'S TRUE BASS: The history of striped bass, white bass and hybrids

Chas Patterson of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation holds a 50-pound striper caught while electrofishing in May 2011 in the Lake Eufaula tailwaters. The fish was tagged and then released as part of a research study. State wildlife officials shocked six stripers to the surface during that study from the Lake Eufaula tailwaters and the Lower Illinois River that weighed more than the state record of 47 pounds, 8 ounces. [PHOTO PROVIDED BY ODWC]

Chas Patterson of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation holds a 50-pound striper caught while electrofishing in May 2011 in the Lake Eufaula tailwaters. The fish was tagged and then released as part of a research study. State wildlife officials shocked six stripers to the surface during that study from the Lake Eufaula tailwaters and the Lower Illinois River that weighed more than the state record of 47 pounds, 8 ounces. [PHOTO PROVIDED BY ODWC]

When most Oklahoma anglers hear the word bass, they think of a largemouth bass, or maybe a smallmouth. But those fish, along with spotted bass, are really part of the sunfish family.

White bass, striped bass and hybrid striped bass are “true bass” to science nerds.

“It's just scientific nomenclature, basically,” said Kurt Kuklinski, supervisor of the Oklahoma Fishery Research Lab in Norman.

After years of offering bass fishing classes as part of its continuing education curriculum, Rose State College in Midwest City next month will shift its focus to “true bass.” The class, “Stripers, Hybrids and White Bass Techniques” will meet Oct. 4, 11 and 18.

Hybrid Striped Bass

Anyone who has ever caught a striper, hybrid or white bass knows how much fun fishing for them can be. All are strong fighters, especially hybrids, which are the hatchery-produced offspring between a female striped bass and a male white bass.

It can work the other way as well, but Oklahoma chooses that pairing because hybrids usually inherit more of the maternal traits. Breeding a female striped bass with a male white bass tends to produce a bigger hybrid.

Biologists use a term called “hybrid vigor” in describing fish produced by such crosses. Hybrids generally grow faster and are more aggressive than either of its species of parents.

“Catching an 8-pound hybrid bass is probably a lot more exciting than catching an 8-pound striped bass because the hybrid is going to pull harder,” Kuklinski said. “It's got a lot more fight. We see that in all hybrid species.”

Hybrids, which can't reproduce, are raised at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Byron Fish Hatchery and stocked in around two dozen lakes. The Oklahoma City Fish Hatchery takes hybrid fry and raises them to fingerling-size to stock in Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser.

Skiatook, Tom Steed, Waurika and Fort Cobb are considered some of the best hybrid fishing lakes in Oklahoma.

The Wildlife Department puts hybrids in lakes where the agency wants to thin populations of big shad that are competing with juvenile game fish such as largemouth bass and crappie for food, Kuklinski said.

Hybrids, commonly called “wipers” in Kansas and other states north of Oklahoma, prefer lakes with lots of open and deep water. They usually do not do well in shallower, muddier waters.

“We tried hybrids for three of the last five years in Arcadia, and it just wasn't working well,” Kuklinski said. “We weren't seeing good growth, so we stopped because we never thought it was going to get to a point where it was good enough.”

The state record hybrid weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces was caught in 1997 from Altus-Lugert Lake.

Striped Bass

Striped bass are a saltwater species that was first introduced to Oklahoma waters in the mid-‘60s.

Oklahoma wildlife obtained stripers from Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina, where the fish thrived in the fresh water lake after being trapped when it was impounded, and put them in Texoma, Sooner, Canton and Keystone lakes.

In just a few years, the stripers were naturally producing in Lake Texoma and in the Arkansas River due to the free-running miles of rivers above the reservoirs. At Texoma, stripers will swim 60 to 80 miles in the rivers to lay their eggs, Kuklinski said.

“That is why Texoma is so good,” he said. “We have free-flowing river miles to allow those eggs to develop and float back. The salt content helps keeps them buoyant so they can develop as they float down.”

Oklahoma's state record striped bass weighed 47 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught in the Lower Illinois River, a tributary of the Arkansas River, in 1996.

Several years ago, state wildlife officials documented a half-dozen striped bass bigger than the state record in the Lower Illinois River and in the Lake Eufaula tailwaters while doing a research study, Kuklinski said.

Stripers are drawn to the colder water and numerous smaller fish (instant food) coming through the gates of the Tenkiller and Eufaula dams.

“We know for 40-pound-plus fish, there are a lot of them below Eufaula and a lot of them in the Lower Illinois,” Kuklinski said. “We saw them. We consistently captured that big of a fish.”

White bass

White bass, commonly called sand bass by Oklahoma anglers, became the state fish in 1974. White bass have been in Oklahoma rivers since the beginning.

The Wildlife Department doesn't need to stock white bass because they are everywhere in Oklahoma. When the rivers started being impounded in Oklahoma, white bass thrived just as well in the reservoirs as they did in the streams.

Kaw, Eufaula, Canton, Texoma, Broken Bow and Fort Gibson are considered some of the best white bass lakes in the state.

In the spring, white bass run up the rivers to spawn. The Neosho River above Grand Lake, the Canadian River above Canton, the Arkansas River above Kaw, the Poteau River above Wister and the Upper Mountain Fork above Broken Bow are just a few of the prime spots in the state for white bass fishing during spring spawning runs.

The state record white bass of 4 pounds, 9 ounces was caught in 2013 at Kaw Lake.

 

Stripers, Hybrids & White Bass Techniques

 

• When: Oct. 4, 11 and 18 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

• Where: Rose State College in Midwest City.

• Instructors: Bill Carey, Striper Express Guide Service on Lake Texoma; Steve Carroll, Weekend Duty Guide Service on the Lower Illinois River, Keystone and Skiatook lakes;

Lance Lutke, Lutke Guide Service on Lake Oologah, Grand Lake and Fort Gibson Lake; and Gary Dollahon, FOX Sports Outdoors TV correspondent and angler. 

• Enrollment fee: $89. 

• To enroll: Call Rose State College at 405-733-7392.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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