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RALEIGH, N.C. (July 1) — Striped bass anglers fishing Lake Norman will be able to keep four stripers of any size per day from July 1 to Sept. 30.

The new regulation, approved by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in March, allows anglers fishing Lake Norman to harvest striped bass that otherwise might not survive if caught and released during the summer.

From Oct. 1 through June 30, the old regulation remains in effect: Striped bass smaller than 20 inches must be released, and anglers must adhere to a daily creel limit of four stripers.

In previous years, striped bass anglers on Lake Norman typically would catch and release many stripers until they caught four that exceeded the 20-inch minimum length limit. The catch-and-release practice had an unintended effect of killing some of the released striped bass during the summer because stripers are less tolerant of summer conditions than other game fishes.

“Stripers caught in the summer on Lake Norman often are reeled in from deep, cool water,” said Christian Waters, Piedmont fisheries research coordinator for the Wildlife Commission. “When they’re reeled to the surface, it’s like they’re getting heat stroke because the water temperature at the surface is so warm. They’re also getting stressed from being hauled out of the water and handled.”

The regulation to provide summertime relief to Lake Norman’s striped bass comes at the request of two area fishing clubs, the Lake Norman Striper Swipers and the Norman Fisheries Alliance, whose members believe striped bass mortality during summer is significant.

“Until now, anglers had to release undersized and stressed stripers, per the old regulation,” said Gus Gustafson, president of Lake Norman Striper Swipers. “The released stripers swim away, only to die a short time later, then float to the surface. The dead fish could have been excellent table fare, but had to be left floating to become dessert for turkey buzzards and ospreys.”

Gustafson said that area fishing clubs planned to help notify all anglers fishing Lake Norman of the new regulation by distributing handouts at local bait and tackle shops, sporting goods outlets and marinas. Clubs also will encourage compliance with the new regulation through seminars, newsletters and Web sites, he said.

“The Striper Swipers are elated over the new regulation. It is talked about at every meeting,” Gustafson said. “The majority of our members don’t fish for stripers during the summer months. Those that do are encouraged to keep the stripers they catch, up to the creel limit, then go catfishing or home.”

Waters said voluntary compliance with the new regulation was important because the Wildlife Commission can regulate only the harvest of striped bass and cannot stop anglers from catching striped bass during the summer months without banning all fishing. For this rule to be effective, anglers will have to be diligent in targeting striped bass on a limited basis, he said.

“This rule will only have its intended effect if anglers either stop fishing after they catch their four stripers or they change tactics and fish for other species,” Waters said. “But legally, anglers can catch and release as many fish as they want, so it will be up to the anglers to police themselves.”

Beginning in 2006, this regulation will be effective from June 1 to Sept. 30.

For more information on fishing in North Carolina’s public freshwaters, visit the Wildlife Commission’s Web site, or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, (919) 733-3633.
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