'Bubble' collapse could be deadly

Natalie (from left), Seth and Faith Cook, of Augusta, show off a stringer of catfish they caught in a pond near Hephzibah. They are the grandchildren of C. David Hopkins, of Augusta.

A massive kill of big stripers and hybrids could take place on Thurmond Lake over the next several weeks because of a lack of dissolved oxygen, according to a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.


"There is a 'bubble' of oxygen-rich water 90 feet down near the dam and fishermen have been catching some quality fish there," said Ed Bettross, who works out of the Thomson District office. "If that bubble collapses, those fish won't have anywhere to go and will die."

Professional guide David Willard, of Clarks Hill, S.C., has already seen some evidence of stressed stripers. "I've seen three 20-pound-class striped bass floating on the surface. Two were bloated and the other was still feebly moving."

Bettross said Savannah District Corps of Engineers fisheries biologist Jamie Sikes checks water quality in the lake, and on July 15 reported the "best oxygen levels of 4 parts per million were found at 90 feet. But there was less than 1 part per million dissolved oxygen at 30 feet."

Willard also found evidence of the latter when fish hooked at the deeper level stopped fighting and died about halfway up before they could be netted, he said.

Bettross also said the three floaters "could have been fish hooked and released, or broke off and did not survive the stress." But most fishermen who catch 20-pound-class stripers tend to keep them.

The biologist said there was nothing anyone could do to help the fish "and Mother Nature will just have to take her course, unfortunately."

- A combined Thurmond Lake stocking of hybrids by Georgia and South Carolina fisheries departments earlier this year totaled 527,000, while 387,000 striped bass were stocked. The Georgia DNR alone stocked 279,000 hybrids and 210,000 stripers, biologists said.

- Steve Farmer will lend his expertise on how to tie a "Gurgler Popper" when Rivers & Glen Outfitters conducts free fly-tying instruction sessions geared to Augusta area anglers on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Materials will be provided, but participants must bring their own vises and tools. Coffee and doughnuts will be served. The shop is located at 387 Highland Avenue in the Surrey Center shopping center. More information: (706) 738-4536.


Raysville Marina (Leon Buffington and Doug Pentecost), (706) 595-5582 - Terry Jenkins caught 10 good-sized crappies on minnows, fishing around brushpiles.

Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. (Boat phone: (706) 214-0236. (803) 637-6379 (www. crockettrocketstriperfishing.com) - Fishing has been tough this past week. On Monday, we got into some breaking fish and loaded the boat with some nice hybrids and stripers. Gary Albrecht, his grandsons Kyle and Troy of Detroit, Mich., saw bait jumping out of the water and several splashes. We went to investigate and marked a school of fish down to 50 feet. We couldn't get the rods out fast enough or the fish in fast enough. We had four rods laying in the bottom of the boat while we were trying to get the hooks out of the fish. I put out four new rods and had four fish on instantly. Otherwise, this was a week when we had lots of fish under the boat and had to work hard to catch 15 to 20 fish. Maybe one out of 100 would hit the bait. Main reason is the low dissolved oxygen levels. It was sad to see three 20-pound-plus stripers belly-up on Thursday morning. We located some really nice fish in the 80- to 100-foot-deep range and after an hour, we'd boated two 10 to 12-pound stripers. They stopped fighting about halfway up and were dead when we netted them. Most of the fish are stressed and hit very slow or not at all.

Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide, (706) 860-7373 - My new show is all about family catching fish. It features my son, Ralph Barbee III, and my grandsons, Houston, 11, and Christopher, 23. Billy Murphy and his son, Jim, and grandson, Johnathan, took us out hybrid fishing. It airs Saturdays at 11 a.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Stations are Comcast Ch. 21, Knology Ch. 7, Atlantic Broadband, Ch. 7 (Aiken), Northland Ch. 9 Statesboro-Swainsboro) and Ft. Gordon Ch. 9. You must have a special box from Comcast to view my show. The box is free.

Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706) 733-0124 (Web site www.doubletroublefishingguides .com) with twins Brad and Jim - Our fishing success has slowed down. We are marking tons of bait fish, but just can't locate the game fish. Also, our live herring isn't staying alive for very long. During our last fishing trip on Tuesday, we trolled umbrella rigs 160 feet behind the boat at 1,000 rpm. We never marked any fish, but caught a 5-pound striper in 70 feet of water.

My VHF radio handle is doubletrouble on Ch. 68.

Capt. William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 589-5468 - It's been tough talking the fish into biting this week. Chris Hixon, of Evans, John Helmick, of Martinez, and Bill Freeman and Richard Johnson, of Grovetown, went out on a morning trip for stripers. We wound up with 28 fish that came out of 30 feet of water on cut bait. Chip Metts and Adrian Garrison, of Augusta; Noel Schweers, of North Augusta; Kirby Eldridge, of Blythe, Ga.; and Elwyn Beddingfield, of Martinez, caught 20 stripers on the same pattern. We marked lots of deeper fish, but could not entice them to bite.

Check out my Web site at www. williamsasserfishing.com.

Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids. (706) 833-4807 - I'm telling all my clients - Stay home! Fishing is so very tough. I'm doing everything I can to stay off the water until fishing really turns around. My VHF radio handle is Boat Racer and I can be reached on Channel 68. My Web site is www.fishlakethurmond.com.


New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam

Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle, Billy Hambrick and Russ Peyton), (706) 496-1173 - Fishermen found their access blocked to the fishing platform on the dam. Options are limited to anglers with boats. They can tie the boat to the off-limits cable, or beach it on the South Carolina side and fish off the riprap with bucktails or top-water lures like Pencil Poppers. Meanwhile, it's been the year of the catfish in the river. Favorite baits include rooster livers (unfit for human consumption), cut herring and bream heads. Messes of mullet are still being caught downstream, while most bream fishermen are opting to fish early and late to beat heat while making excellent catches.



Harrison Sears (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) - Lonnie Pope and Clarence Gay won last Friday's bass tournament with 8 pounds and the big fish was 4.75 pounds. Our bass tournaments run from 6 -10 p.m. every Friday. Entry fee is $20 per fisherman in each event. A fishing license is not required to fish in our ponds.


Beaufort, S.C. & vicinity

Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 - Inshore fishing is getting better, especially with flounder and whiting, while anglers are catching redfish and spotted sea trout. Schools of Spanish mackerel and some medium-sized blues are being found near the shore. Spadefish are still biting, while the few fishermen bottom fishing are catching trigger fish, black sea bass and a few red snappers and groupers. Cobia are still around near the wreck of the Betsy Ross. Capt. George, of the charter boat Full Tilt, now has 90 en route to his goal to 100. Offshore, anglers continue to catch wahoo, bull dolphins and kings, but the fishes' size has dropped. Dolphins may weigh 18 pounds, kings 15 and wahoo 20. Some sailfish are being caught, but no blue marlin have been spotted.


Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 - Inshore, spotted sea trout, flounder and black drum have made up most of the catches. Large Spanish mackerel and king mackerel are being caught around artificial reefs. There also are some large barracuda being caught.

Now is the time to move to the blue water offshore for a chance at a sailfish or bull dolphin (mahi mahi).



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