Trolling for stripers? You might just land a Bionic Fish.
For the fourth consecutive year, scientists are using surgically implanted transmitters to spy on Thurmond Lake stripers during warm weather months.
“This year, we tagged an additional 36 striped bass,” said research biologist Jason Bettinger of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, whose team tagged similar numbers of fish in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The study, which was expanded this year to include 14 hybrid bass, is part of an effort to see how fish respond to an $11.3 million oxygen injection system that can artificially improve water quality in the lower lake when hot weather elevates water temperatures and lowers dissolved oxygen levels.
Typically, when hot weather hits, striped bass migrate upstream toward the colder waters found in the Russell Dam tailrace, where they are also vulnerable to being killed during the operation of Russell Dam’s pumped storage “reversible” turbines.
The Army Corps of Engineers built the oxygen plant near Modoc, S.C., as a mitigation project to offset the impact of fish kills at Russell
The oxygen plant’s submerged diffusers are able to oxygenate a broad swath of water in the lower lake, which biologists believe will encourage more stripers to remain downstream.
So far, the studies have shown varied numbers of fish staying downstream or continuing to move to the Russell tailrace, he said.
“This year, there is the big difference that they will have full use of the pumpback capacity, which will have different oxygenated areas at the tailrace,” Bettinger said.
The corps had been operating under a 2002 agreement that only two of the four reversible units would be operated during warmer months. Now that the oxygen system on the lower lake is fully active, that restriction has been lifted.
In addition to including hybrid bass in the study this year, one other difference is the use of external tags to let anglers know their fish has a transmitter inside.
“With fish tagged in previous years, there was no way for an angler to know it was there unless they filleted it,” he said. “This year they will see a bright yellow tag.”
Anyone who lands a tagged fish is welcome to keep it, but the researchers would like the transmitter back, along with details of where and when the fish was caught.
“We want them to do whatever they normally do with their fish,” he said. “If they harvest it, we’d like them to report and send back tag and transmitter; if they release the fish, they can clip the external tag from its back for a reward.”
Each tag has a small cash value.
BENDERDINKER: Even with some morning drizzle, the April 27 Benderdinker canoe and kayak music festival was deemed a success, and a date has already been set for the third round of paddling in 2014.
“In the end, we were able to get over 500 boats on the water and through Champions Retreat Golf Course with ease,” said Kristina Williams, the event’s founder. “I am told the golfers enjoyed watching it all go on and we were not a disruption to them at all. So with that, thank you all for being so graceful and compliant – it makes our job easier next year.”
‘CHRONICLE’ HONOR: The Augusta Chronicle won first place (newspaper division) in the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association’s 2012 Excellence in Craft competition for a May 13, 2012 outdoors column about golf pro Vaughn Taylor making a “piscatorial hole-in-one” by landing a 56-pound, 2-ounce striper that set a new species record for the Savannah River.
Entries for the annual competition were judged by professional outdoor writers in Florida and announced last weekend at the group’s annual conference held in Albany, Ga.