STORIES THE VIEW UPSTREAM By: Keith ''Catfish'' Sutton The Hottest Hybrid Fish of the Summer Greers Ferry Lake in Arkansas has proven to be one of the best fishing locations in America to catch hybrid fish If you want to catch big hybrid stripers like this, head for Arkansas. (Photo courtesy of Keith ''Catfish'' Sutton) If ever a fishing “marriage” was made in heaven, it was the one that joined striped bass and white bass to create hybrid stripers, with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fish hatchery personnel doing the officiating. In the early 1975, biologists set nets in Lake Maumelle near Little Rock, Arkansas to secure eggs and milt from large adult stripers to carry out an artificial spawning program. They caught numerous ripe female stripers but few males. Rather than allow the eggs to die for lack of milt, biologists quickly secured male white bass that had been trapped in abundance, and crossed the eggs. A few weeks later, several thousand 2-inch hybrid fingerlings were released into DeGray Lake, the first Arkansas reservoir stocked with this hatchery-produced game fish. Greers Ferry Lake at Heber Springs received hybrids in 1976. That year, the Greers Ferry Lake nursery pond was stocked with 1.1 million hybrid fry obtained from Georgia. Half a million of those fry grew into fingerlings that were released in Greers Ferry. Additional waters stocked in the years since then include lakes Catherine, DeQueen, Chicot, Millwood, Storm Creek, Beaver, Hamilton, Hinkle, Charles, Maumelle, Shepherd Springs, Nimrod, Harris Brake, Horseshoe, Norfork, Ft. Smith and the Little River. The hybrid striper quickly became a rising star on the Arkansas fishing scene. The first state record was established on July 9, 1976 by a 1-pound, 2-ounce hybrid from DeGray. The record fell an astounding 24 times during the next 12 years. Eighteen records came from DeGray, three from Greers Ferry, two from the Little River, one from Lake Hamilton. The first 20-pound-plus hybrid came from Greers Ferry in 1988 – a 20-pound-11-ounce record. DeGray gave up a 21-pound record in 1989, and Bull Shoals entered the spotlight in 1996 with a 22-pound, 1-ounce record. Then, on April 24, 1997, Jerald Shaum of Shirley landed the whopper of all whoppers – a 27-pound, 5-ounce Greers Ferry hybrid that was soon certified, and now stands, as the all-tackle world record. Greers Ferry was the focus of nationwide attention when Shaum caught his world-record. A large percentage of the hybrids stocked each year in Arkansas are released in this 31,500-acre impoundment, and since stocking began, Greers – along with DeGray – has always been considered one of Arkansas’ two best hybrid lakes. One excellent tactic used by anglers fishing Greers Ferry is nightfishing with live shad. A 1-ounce egg sinker is threaded on the main line above a barrel swivel. Below this is a 3- to 5-foot leader to which is tied a 5/0 Kahle hook. The shad are hooked through the lips, and the rig is dropped to the depth of the thermocline, usually about 18 feet. The sinker rig allows the shad to swim naturally, and a hybrid takes the bait, the angler sets the hook and the battle begins. Five- to 8-pound hybrids are common here, but anglers are aware another world-record-class fish is always possible. Anglers on DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia also enjoy fast-paced fishing for summer hybrids. Most look for schools thrashing the water’s surface near the dam and around islands between the state park lodge and Iron Mountain. Prepare for fishing by rigging some rods with shad-imitation topwater lures and others with spoons or shad-like crankbaits. When you see fish breaking, motor close using a trolling motor. When the fish are on top, throw a topwater plug. When they go down, try a spoon or crankbait. Stay with the school until you don’t catch any more fish in that area. And be sure you set your drag properly; 15- to 20-pound hybrids sometimes are caught here. Beaver Lake near Rogers also supports a healthy hybrid-striper population. Tributary mouths are among the best fishing areas, including War Eagle Creek, White River, Ford’s Creek, Cedar Creek and Rambo Creek. Live shad are the favored local baits. Anglers pinpoint hybrid schools using sonar, then suspend a shad above the fish using a balloon tied around the line with an overhand knot. The balloon signals a strike and will slide up or down the line when a big fish hits. Hybrids also run schools of shad on the surface this season and can be taken by sight-casting shad-imitation lures to schools. Fish average 8 to 12 pounds, but true heavyweights also are possible. Last summer brought continual flurries of excellent hybrid fishing in the lakes mentioned here. The action this year should be equally good. Get out there now and give it a try!