By JULI PROBASCO-SOWERS
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
Iowa anglers and fisheries biologists want to stock more hybrid wipers.
Just when that might happen is not known. However, anglers and state biologists agree hybrid wipers are an excellent game fish that can improve, and have improved, Iowa fishing.
Hybrid wipers, also called hybrid striped bass, were first stocked in Iowa in 1981 in Lake Red Rock in Marion County, and in 1982 in Saylorville Lake in Polk County.
The fish, a cross between a striped bass and a white bass, do not reproduce naturally, so Iowa's fishery depends on stockings, explained Mike Mason, fish hatchery supervisor for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa gets all its fry (tiny, just-hatched fish) from other states. Some of those fry are stocked directly into Iowa lakes, and some are sent to the fish hatchery at Mount Ayr where they are raised to a size of 2 or 3 inches.
Lakes usually stocked by the department with wipers are Coralville Reservoir and Lake Macbride in Johnston County; Saylorville; Blue Heron Lake in West Des Moines; Lake Manawa in Pottawattamie County; Three Mile Lake in Union County; and sometimes Lake Red Rock.
The emphasis on stocking is at Saylorville because the wipers also travel up the Des Moines river from there as far as Fort Dodge, and down the river as far as Lake Red Rock and Ottumwa, Mason said.
In a usual year, Iowa will get from 1 million to 1.5 million fry. But this year the state received far less than expected, placing 3,800 in Three Mile Lake and 8,600 in Lake Manawa in Pottawattamie County. None of the other places received wiper stockings, including Saylorville.
"The problem with depending on other states for fish stock is that you don't always know how many or if you are going to get the fish you want," Mason said.
In addition, there were only 10,000 fingerlings raised at the Mount Ayr hatchery this year, he said.
Having more rearing ponds would help produce a more reliable hybrid wiper source, he said.
One idea, which Scott Rolfes, natural resources specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers at Saylorville, has already written into plan, is to renovate an existing pond and build a second pond at Saylorville where wipers and other species could be raised to larger sizes and released through a conduit directly into the lake.
He said he's ready to move forward on the project. However, money and input would be needed from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
"Our problem with that is money," Mason said.
Fisheries biologist Ben Dodd has Saylorville in his area, and said if the project happens it would involve the Corps, the natural resources department and Central Iowa Anglers, a non-profit fishing association that has members interested in hybrid wipers.
Dave Mote, a Des Moines angler with Central Iowa Anglers, calls hybrid wipers the perfect game fish. "They are beautiful and they are wicked-fast," he said.
Although they aren't as acrobatic as a small-mouth bass, they are fighters, Mote said.
"Combine all that with fast growth and the fact they grow large, they make a great fish," he said.
Biologists said the fish can grow up to 20 inches in about three years. It is not unusual for the females to grow to 20 or 30 pounds. The state record is 19 pounds, 10 ounces, caught in 2005 on the Des Moines River near Saylorville.
Mote said anglers in the association are poised to help with the project. No one knows how much the pond project would cost yet, however.
Mason explained that the department is looking at building a central fish hatchery, perhaps at Big Creek, which is right by Saylorville. A new fish hatchery would have capacity to rear more wipers, he said.
The question is whether money should be spent for more ponds at Saylorville if a new hatchery will eventually take care of the issue, Mason said.
This species, also called a hybrid striped bass, was introduced to Iowa in 1981
It is the combination of a white bass and a striped bass.
Anglers like the fish because they fight hard. They also grow fast and provide a larger game fish to pursue, said Dave Mote of Central Iowa Anglers.
Two particularly good places to fish for hybrid wipers are Saylorville Lake in Polk County and Lake Manawa in Pottawattamie County, state fisheries biologists said.
Because the fish do not reproduce naturally, Iowa gets wiper stock by trading a million walleye eggs from the Lake Rathbun hatchery to Byron Fish Hatchery in Byron, Okla., for 1 million to 1.5 million hybrid wipers, said Mike Mason, state hatchery manager for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.