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After a two-decade hiatus, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is once again releasing hatchery-raised fish into Carvins Cove reservoir.
Courtesy of Marie VanAalsburg
Fingerling hybrid striped bass await release into Carvins Cove reservoir Tuesday.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | THE ROANOKE TIMES
The reservoir at Carvins Cove has gotten an extra dose of fish.
JEANNA DUERSCHERL | The Roanoke Times
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries stocked approximately 5,000 hybrid striped bass into 630-acre Carvin's Cove last week.
Courtesy of West Virginia DNR
Hybrid striped bass are a cross between striped bass and white bass.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
For the first time in nearly two decades, the reservoir at Carvins Cove has gotten an extra dose of fish.
Tuesday, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries stocked approximately 5,000 hybrid striped bass into the 630-acre lake.
The agency and the Western Virginia Water Authority hope that in a couple of years the fish will grow into feisty, hungry fighters, enhancing the recreational fishery at the lake, which not only serves as a water source for the Western Virginia Water Authority, but which is the centerpiece of the Carvins Cove Natural Preserve, a 12,700-acre tract that is popular for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
“We know it’s fairly popular with people,” said Gary Robertson, the water authority’s director of operations. “If we could enhance their experience, I wasn’t going to oppose it.”
The DGIF plans to continue stocking hybrids for several years while evaluating the program’s success.
Hybrids are a cross between striped bass and white bass, and cannot reproduce.
“If it doesn’t work out and we don’t like the way it’s going, we stop putting them in there and they just go away,” said Dan Wilson, the DGIF fisheries biologist who oversees lake fishing programs in the Roanoke area.
The DGIF’s involvement in Carvins Cove fishing has been several years in the works, and was initiated by a 2008 rule change that established across-the-board fees for users.
Prior to that, the agency maintained a hands-off approach at the fishery starting in the early 1990s, when Roanoke officials established strict access rules for boaters.
The rules were set because water officials were concerned about zebra mussels, an invasive mollusk that can wreak havoc on submerged pipes and valves.
Rules included requiring a 21-day waiting period from the time a boat that had been in another body of water could be launched at Carvins Cove.
Also, only boaters from certain counties were allowed to launch their craft at the lake.
Those residency restrictions privatized the lakes in the eyes of the DGIF, which does not actively manage private waters.
While the 21-day waiting period rule remains in effect, the 2008 change lifted the boater residency restriction, returning the lake to public status in the DGIF’s opinion.
In the spring of 2009, a team of DGIF fisheries biologists spent a day sampling the lake’s fish population, cruising the shoreline in a boat equipped with fish-stunning electrofishing gear.
The biologists and helpers scooped the temporarily stunned fish into nets, counting the number of each species collected, as well as each fish’s size.
Subsequent sampling trips have allowed the fisheries experts to establish a detailed assessment of the lake’s fishery.
The fishery is already good, especially when it comes to largemouth bass.
In the DGIF’s rankings of 24 largemouth bass reservoirs in the agency’s South Central region, Carvins Cove ranks third, tied with Bear Creek Lake in Cumberland County.
The ratings are based on the electrofishing collection of bass of 15 inches or larger, an index deemed the CPUE-P, or catch per unit effort of preferred-sized fish.
The CPUE-P at Carvins Cove is 23.
The region’s top-ranked lake is Lake Burton in Pittsylvania County, with a CPUE-P of 49. Second-ranked Fairystone Lake in Patrick County is barely ahead of Carvins Cove, with a CPUE-P rate of 25.
When the DGIF became actively involved in researching Carvins Cove, some of the lake’s avid bass anglers voiced concern that supplemental stocking of another species or two of predator fish might negatively impact the bass fishing.
Several species of fish were considered for stocking, including striped bass, walleyes and hybrid stripers.
Stripers and walleyes had been stocked in the lake into the early 1990s, and an occasional big striper still surprises a lucky angler now and then.
Walleyes ended up not being a practical option.
“We considered walleyes, but we didn’t have them available,” Wilson said.
Hybrids were selected because of their versatile diet, fast growth and aggressive behavior.
“They’re more catchable” than stripers, Wilson said.
Other lakes in Western Virginia stocked with hybrids include Claytor Lake and Flannagan Reservoir.
“They work well in those systems,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he doesn’t expect the hybrids to hurt the largemouth bass population at Carvins Cove.
He did note, however, that hybrid striped bass and black bass do often target similar forage, including shad, sunfish and crayfish.
In fact, Wilson noted, the hybrids’ versatile diet is one reason they often do well in systems where black bass also thrive.
Wilson noted that the stocking will likely provide for a brief largemouth bass feeding frenzy.
“Bass are going to eat a large portion of them,” Wilson said of the fingerling hybrids, which were 3- to 4-inches long and acquired from a private hatchery in Arkansas. “They have spent their whole life in a hatchery and they’re pretty stupid.”
The fish that escape hungry bass should reach 18 to 20 inches in length in two years, Wilson said.
At that point they will be large enough to start providing the lake’s anglers with another exciting fishing option.
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