LAKE CUMBERLAND ALEWIVES & SHAD AND THE STRIPED BASS
First let me say that I am not a fish biologist and that this is just my opinion, based upon my 45 years of fishing Lake Cumberland.
Some times I hear the claim; "due to the deep average depth of the lake, there are relatively few large baitfish in the lake and that is the reason for the decline in the average size of the striper since the introduction of the alewife".
That statement itself is contradictory. Do people believe it to be the depth of the lake that is causing some "alleged" problem of declining Striper size (which is incorrect), or do they believe it to be the introduction of the alewives?
Which is it? It cannot be both. They are two separate statements and circumstances and are not combined.
First, we catch a lot of huge Stripers at Lake Cumberland. There were two 50 pound fish caught in 2008 and StriperFun caught a 43 pound fish already Spring 2009. We average over 13 pounds per fish. If there is a true scientific study that substantiates that Lake Cumberland's average Striper size is declining I have never heard of it (and would challenge its merits!). Maybe these naysayer just needs to hire a good guide!
Regarding the depth of the lake, I again have never seen any conclusive scientific study that substantiates that deeper lakes have smaller bait fish in them because of the depth. That seems bizarre! Where in the world did that come from?
Also, larger bait fish does not necessarily mean larger fish. We continually look into the stomachs of the fish we catch. They mostly eat smaller bait fish (just more of them!). The larger the bait fish the larger the Striper in my opinion has a lot of "myth" to it. Do we catch big Stripers with large Gizzard shad? Sure! However, the 43 pound fish Spring 2009 came on a 4 inch alewives.
Regarding Gizzard shad, we still catch them all the time. You just have to go way up a creek into shallow muddy water to throw the net (Gizzards scour the bottom in the shallows). If I had to say one way or the other that there were fewer Gizzards, I would say yes, but slightly. There is only so much ecosystem to go around. Between the countless trillions of alewives and the Threadfin shad, there will always be competition for the organisms they eat.
The major difference in the alewives introduced is that they migrate more than the Gizzard & Threadfin and they go a lot deeper. In the days prior to Alewives, the bait (and thus the Stripers) was rarely deeper than 30 feet. Also, the bait would stay in the same spot a lot longer (and we could go back to the same spot for several days and hammer the fish)!
With the Alewives (now being the dominant species), they will go down to 100 plus feet in the summer and fall and we fish that deep to catch them. They also move all the time so we have to hunt around to find the bait fish a lot more than we use to when it was just Gizzard & Threadfin.
Come book a trip and see for yourself sometime!
Captain Jim Durham
United States Coast Guard
Merchant Marine Officer License No. 1037731
Kentucky State Guide License # 007
Specializing in "Trophy" Striper Fishing, Captain Jim Durham is a Kentucky State licensed guide who has fished Lake Cumberland year round for most of his adult life. As a the creator of the "Striper Fish like a Pro" DVD Instructional series & a former B.A.S.S. tournament circuit fisherman, Captain Jim is also a Staff Officer with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary as well as a Coast Guard Merchant Marine Captain. Licensed and insured, Captain Jim and Striperfun™ Guide Service can take you on a safe, fun and unforgettable fishing trip to catch a "Trophy Striper" of a lifetime! Check out the StriperFun Guide Service website at: www.striperfun.com, or call Captain Jim at 1-931-403-2501 or email Captain Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org