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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Hybrid striped bass in Ky. waters are result of a controlled interspecies cross


The Hybrid Striped Bass is the result of interspecific hybridization, a cross of two species that must occur in the controlled environment of a fish hatchery. It does not happen naturally in the wild, and offspring are usually sterile.

The original cross is the eggs of the female Striped Bass (Morone saxatilus) mixed with the milt of the male White Bass (Morone chrysops). The so-called reciprocal cross is the eggs of the female White Bass mixed with the milt of the male Striped Bass.

Both crosses have been stocked in Kentucky waters.

Hybrid Striped Bass (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

“The original cross was stocked early on (in the program),” said Jeff Ross, Assistant Director of the Fisheries Division for the management districts of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). “The reciprocal cross is much easier to deal with, and that’s what we’ve been stocking (since 1989).”

The problem with the original cross is gravid (fertile) Striped Bass females are often hard to capture in the wild and are difficult to handle without the high risk of stress-related mortality.

Hybrid Striped Bass have been spawned off at the department’s Peter W. Pfeiffer Fish Hatchery, near Frankfort, and some years fry have been purchased from a hatchery in Tennessee.

The Striped Bass and White Bass are true bass, both members of the family Serranidae.

Common names for the Hybrid Striped Bass throughout the South include the Wiper, Sunshine Bass, and Whiterock.

Creel Limit

In Kentucky, the daily creel limit for White Bass and Hybrid White Bass is 15, with no minimum size limit, but no more than five fish in the daily creel may be more than 15 inches long.

Size and Coloration

The Hybrid Striped Bass, similar in appearance to the White Bass, is silvery white with dark, horizontal stripes, tall dorsal fins, and a dark eyes sometimes rimmed in yellow.

The White Bass has a deeper body and arched back, and one patch of teeth on the back of its tongue. The lines on its sides are faint, with only one extending to the tail.

The Hybrid Striped Bass is more streamlined and has two patches of teeth on the back of its tongue. Several of the dark lines on the sides of Hybrid Striped Bass extend to the tail, but most are broken and poorly aligned.

Kentucky’s state record Hybrid Striped Bass, which weighed 20 pounds, eight ounces, was caught by Louisville’s Mark Wilson on April 27, 1991, from the tailwaters of Barren River Lake.

Distribution in Kentucky

Hybrid Striped Bass have been present in Kentucky waters since 1979.

(Graphic by KDFWR)

Barren River Lake was the first lake stocked, initially with 131,000 fry, 1 1/2-inch fish, according to KDFWR stocking records.

Later, about 38,000 fingerlings obtained from Florida in a trade for walleye, were stocked in Barren River Lake and Herrington Lake. Eventually, the Kentucky River was added to the list of waters that received the fish.

In 1989, Taylorsville Lake was first stocked, then Fishtrap lake, in 1990, and Guist Creek Lake in 1991.

Kentucky’s Hybrid Striped Bass program expanded further in the 1990’s. Today Hybrid Striped Bass are stocked in seven large reservoirs, two small lakes and two rivers.

The seven major lakes and two small lakes stocked include:

• Barren River Lake, 10,000 acres in Allen and Barren Counties.

The fishery is rated good.

The overall numbers are good with fish 20 inches or longer in the population.

Spring fishing is best in the upper lake to the first and second riffles of the river. Crankbaits and curly-tailed jigs are popular with anglers.

On the main lake, fish around the islands or above the dam at night, early in the morning, and at dusk during the summer and fall as schools appear throughout the lake.

Barren River Lake is stocked annually with about 200,000 fingerlings, however about 300,00 to 400,000 have been stocked in four of the last seven years.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

• Fishtrap Lake, 1,131 acres in Pike County.

The fishery is rated excellent.

The best fishing is in the lower lake, during the late summer and when the lake is at winter pool.

In April, some fish move into the headwaters.

In May, through July, there is some schooling and jumps.

Night fishing has become popular during the summer.

There is a good distribution of fish up to 27 inches (about 10 pounds).

• Grayson Lake, 1,512 acres in Carter and Elliott Counties.

The fishery is rated good.

This fishery has some large, fast growing fish. In the summer fish the lower lake. In the late fall, fish are congregated mid-lake, in the vicinity of the Bruin boat ramp, off Ky-7.

• Herrington Lake, 2,500 acres in Mercer, Boyle and Garrard counties.

The fishery is rated fair/good.

Numbers are slightly increasing and two-to-five-pound fish are present are abundant, plus the opportunity for trophy-size fish. The lake is stocked annually.

• Paintsville Lake, 1,139 acres in Morgan and Johnson counties.

The fishery is rated good.

The lake was first stocked in June, 2015. The initial stocking was 11,000 fish. The remaining fish are in the 20 to 23-inch size range. The lake will be restocked in 2020 and thereafter on a three-year cycle.

• Rough River Lake, 5,100 acres in Breckinridge and Grayson counties.

The fishery is rated excellent.

There are large numbers of fish over 15 inches and many over 20 inches, up to 10 pounds.

In the spring, fish the upper reaches of the South Fork.

In summer, fish the main lake points. Jumps usually occur from the dam to Tules Creek on North Fork, and the dam to Little Clifty Creek on the South Fork.

In winter fish the sand/mud flats.

The thermocline keeps fish less than 15 feet deep June through September.

• Taylorsville Lake, 3,050 acres in Spencer, Anderson and Nelson counties.
The fishery is rated fair/good.

Numbers of fish are fairly stable, with good numbers of fish over 15 inches. In spring and fall, fish the headwaters. Look for jumps early and late in day July through September. The lake is stocked annually.

The two small, state-owned lakes stocked include: Guist Creek Lake, 317 acres in Shelby County, and Lake Linville, a 356-acre lake in Rockcastle County.

Rivers in Kentucky stocked include the Ohio and Kentucky. Additionally, Hybrid Striped Bass are stocked in the Ohio River by fish and wildlife agencies in Indiana and Ohio.

The Ohio River fishery is rated good/excellent. Fish up to six pounds are plentiful in the tailwaters below dams.

Food Habits

Hybrid Striped Bass are forage eating machines.

They feed on shad, skipjack herring, shiners, and other large minnows.

They can consume prey that are about one-third their body length. For example, a 24-inch fish can eat an eight-inch shad.

They do not have a preference for cool water, like Striped Bass. They have about the same temperature and oxygen requirements as white bass.

In summer, Hybrid Striped Bass can live in the upper levels of the thermocline (a transitional zone where water temperatures drop about one degree per foot) and can survive in water into the high 70s.

Fishing Tips

Hybrid Striped Bass can be caught on a variety of lures and presentations.

In shallow water, or swift water blow dams, casting soft plastics, is a proven producer. Chose a lure that has a shad profile, and rig it on a jig head. Top colors are white, gray and chartreuse.

Hybrid striped Bass (Photo by Mike Cline, Wikipedia Commons)

In the jumps, anglers typically cast unweighted plastics, topwater lures, or floating/diving crankbaits.

Another productive technique when Hybrid Striped Bass are schooled up in the jumps is trolling deep-diving crankbaits. This targets fish that are holding below schools of shad near the surface.

In summer, when Hybrid Striped Bass go deep and suspended atop the thermocline, or submerged humps along an old river channel, drifting live bait on planer boards can be very productive. It’s a precision presentation since the bait can be fished at the exact depth at which the fish are suspended.

A slip-sinker rig works great with a planer board.

Tie a Kahle or Circle hook on a two-foot leader and tie the other end of the leader to a barrel swivel. On the main line from the rod and reel thread an egg sinker and a plastic bead, then tie this main line to the other end of the barrel swivel. The plastic bead protects the knot from being damaged by the lead weight.

The speed of the drift and/or the depth being fished will determine how much weight is needed to keep the bait down at the determined depth. Measure out the line to the proper depth using your fishing rod like a big ruler, clip on your planer board to the line and start drifting with your trolling motor.

Hybrid Striped Bass are fun to catch on spinning tackle. They fight like the dickens when hooked, and fish over 23 inches are eligible for Kentucky’s Trophy Fish Award Program.


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