Battle of the Basses
By Randy Zellers
Largemouth, spotted and
smallmouth bass are top-level predators in Arkansas waters. When striped bass, a
new, larger predator, was introduced to a lake, many anglers worried that the
black bass would be history. But both basses can flourish without affecting each
According to Mike Armstrong, Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission chief of fisheries management, the striper is an open-water fish that
rarely relates to any sort of shoreline cover. While black bass prefer ambushing
prey from cover, stripers swim the lake looking for schools of shad that eat
plankton. And with the vast, open water of Arkansas’s large reservoirs, there’s
plenty of room for both predators.
“Any time we add a species to a body of water, we
monitor it closely for any impact,” said Mark Oliver, AGFC assistant chief of
fisheries management. “We don’t want to do anything that will damage our
fisheries or their ability to produce black bass, our most popular sport fish.
Because stripers can’t reproduce naturally in our lakes, if we see anything bad,
we can adjust stocking rates to manage the lakes.”
The stripers’ impact on a lake’s
food supply is a concern for anglers. It doesn’t take a genius to realize a 30-
to 40-pound fish needs lots of food to survive. According to biologists, there’s
no need to panic.
“Stripers eat shad,” Oliver said. “Bass and other
species will eat shad, but they also eat smaller sunfish, crayfish and other
food sources found near the shore.”
Armstrong further explained the striper diet. “When we
have a shad kill, the stripers will starve out because they can’t adapt to the
warmer, shallow water where the rest of the food lives.”
A study done on Tennessee’s Norris Reservoir in 1998
confirmed this. Mississippi State University fisheries biologists assessed that
even when shad were decimated from a winter kill, the removal of stripers from
the reservoir increased other game-fish populations by a scant 3 percent.
Anglers also worry that stripers
are eating native game fish, including crappie and black bass. While no one
denies that a bass or two may have fallen victim to the thousands of stripers in
open water, biologists stress the two species’ habitats are so different that
there’s no noticeable impact of stripers on the bass population.
“It’s the nature of being a fish,” Armstrong said. “Big
fish eat smaller fish, whether it’s a striper, crappie, bass or catfish. But
stripers and black bass don’t share the same territory. I’m sure a few small
bass have roamed out into open water and been eaten by a striper, but stripers
don’t move into the cover-laden habitat near the shore that bass dominate. The
reason we stock stripers is to take advantage of open water in the middle of our
lakes no other species could use.”
To ensure healthy fisheries, biologists sample the
striper population annually, looking at the condition of fish and what they’re
“In 30 years and thousands of stripers sampled, I’ve
seen two black bass in the stomachs of striped bass,” Oliver said.
According to Oliver and Armstrong, the biggest predator
of black bass is larger black bass. Any angler will tell you that largemouth
will eat pretty much anything they can swallow, and their fingerling-sized
cousins aren’t off the menu.
article was originally featured in the March/April 2008 issue of Arkansas
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Bill Lindner Photography for reprint
permission of their underwater Striped Bass shots.