BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Thousands of striped bass fingerlings are now swimming around Lake Moultrie hoping to bring a recreational fishing boom to Berkeley County this summer.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries Section stocked the lake Friday morning.
A national survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census Bureau, shows recreational fishing and tourism is a more than $680 million economic driver for South Carolina.
The striped bass are produced at DNR's Dennis Wildlife Center Fish Hatchery as part of the department's efforts to support and enhance recreational fishing opportunities statewide.
Approximately 3.5 million fingerlings are produced each year.
The hatchery also produces hybrid striped bass, bluegill and redbreast, overall producing approximately 5-million fish annually for the state's public lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
Located in St. Stephen, the Bayless hatchery is the center for all hatchery-reared striped bass produced in South Carolina.
David Lucas, a spokesman with DNR, said the process begins each spring when adult wild striped bass migrate upstream in an attempt to access spawning grounds. The Bayless Hatchery staff travel South Carolina's rivers to electro-fish male and female striped bass. Broodfish are transported back to the hatchery and placed in holding tanks.
The next step, captive spawning, is a complex and carefully controlled process that produces millions of larval striped bass that are then transported to Dennis Center and other hatcheries for rearing.
Lucas said the techniques for hormone-induced spawning of striped bass were developed in South Carolina in the 1960s. This pioneering research (much of it refined by DNR fisheries biologist Jack D. Bayless while working at the original state striped bass hatchery on the Cooper River) made possible the artificial production of striped bass larvae and eventual stocking of fingerlings in inland reservoirs throughout the United States.
The DNR Freshwater Fisheries Section annually stocks 7 to 10 million fish in state waters, including striped and hybrid bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel and blue catfish, bluegill, redbreast, redear sunfish (shellcracker), and rainbow, brook, and brown trout.
Anglers in South Carolina spend almost $700 million to fish each year, part of an estimated $2 billion, spent on wildlife-related recreation in South Carolina each year, according to 2011 estimates.