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Unusual fish caught in the lower Clackamas River –

He bit a shrimp-baited rainbow trout and fought like a summer fish, but when Kris Frohberg reeled in his catch Tuesday night on the lower Clackamas River, a one-color fish very different was at the end of his line.

An apparent wiper – a hybrid of striped bass and white bass.

KRIS FROHBERG HOLDS HIS CATCH, LANDING ON THE LOWER CLACKAMAS IMMEDIATELY ABOVE THE 99E HIGHWAY, OR MCLOUGHLIN BRIDGE. THE 24 HOUR FITNESS BUILDING AT GLADSTONE CAN BE SEEN FROM ACROSS THE RIVER. (KRIS FROHBERG)

“I was stunned when I saw it,” Frohberg said.

Also stunned were Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists from the nearby Clackamas office.

“Over the years, we have received sporadic reports from anglers of wipers in the Willamette. This year, we received several that seem credible. We have theorized about their origin, but it is somewhat confusing given the known areas where they might have come from,” said Ben Walczak, the agency’s district fish biologist for the river’s northern watershed. Willamette.

“We are aware of the situation, but there is little we can do,” he added.

Wipers were apparently first produced in South Carolina in the 1960s from the eggs and sperm of striped bass and white bass, distant cousins ​​of the eastern U.S./Atlantic coast genus . Morone.

Valued for their fighting ability and aggressive feeding – making them more vulnerable to fishermen – the sterile fish have been stocked in a number of lakes across the country, but these days in Oregon, they are not. There is only one known population, Ana Reservoir, a landlocked lake. in the northern Great Basin, near Summer Lake.

How a hybrid bass could have ended up in the Clackamas immediately upstream of the McLoughlin Bridge is a damn good question, and not the only one – another specimen was caught not far away on the Cedar Oak ramp on the Willamette last month , and Frohberg said a nearby outdoor store told him it was the third landed so far this year.

Frohberg said he was using an Aerojig (a nightmare model, for anglers who would like to try their luck) and shrimp when the fish bit.

“I actually missed a bobber in the previous casting, in the same spot. I was talking to my sister on the phone and I sniffed it. He legit fought like a rainbow trout,” he said.

After a few photos, Frohberg released the unexpected fish, joking, “I wouldn’t even know where to start trying to find hybrid bass regulations on the Clack.” 😂.”

Indeed, the ODFW brochure does not specifically address hybrid bass in the Willamette area as it does for the southeast area, which is home to Ana Reservoir, and the waters of the marine area, where there are no has no size or bag limit. Regulations state that stripers can be kept without limits in the Willamette area, as can all bass caught in watershed streams, but under general statewide rules, hybrid bass are designated as distinct from largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, and striped bass.

The only other known source of hybrid bass in Oregon is not only separated by distance, but for decades now. Beginning in 1982, the ODFW stocked hybrid bass in North Tenmile Lake, “with the goal of adding a top predator to the bluegill while providing a unique recreational fishery”, but this program ended in 1988 in reason for wandering, according to a 2005 report.

“Hybrid bass have been caught in the Coos, Umpqua and Willamette rivers, as well as Siltcoos Lake,” the report states.

During the same period, ODFW also stopped releasing juvenile striped bass – introduced to the West Coast in the late 1800s – into the Coos River Estuary due to the expected federal listing of coho from the Oregon Coast. (They and the Coquille Tribe are now actively removing stripers as well as smallmouth bass from the nearby Coquille River due to low chinook returns in the fall.)

Despite all limits on hybrid bass being dropped throughout the Tenmile Lakes system after stocking ceased, the population persisted at North Tenmile for at least 15 years thereafter, with a net of 27, 5 inches captured in 2003, according to this report. Although no reproduction was ever observed, the author states without citation that spawning grounds had been observed elsewhere.

Because Frohberg let his fish go, we will never know if it developed eggs or gonads, but DNA testing and the fish’s ear bone, or otolith, could provide interesting details for biologists. The chemicals in the water leave telltale markers on the otolith and could potentially reveal whether this fish originally came from Ana Reservoir and therefore had the help of a bucket-loaded biologist making the minimum road trip of 279 miles.

Or was thrown out of someone’s aquarium after it became too large and/or voracious.

Or maybe he was a stripper in disguise.

The most often cited and obvious distinction between hybrid bass and striped bass is whether the black lines on their sides are broken – in a wiper pattern – or continuous and generally straight – in a stripe shape.

But it may not be completely foolproof. Exploring the Depths of the Interwebs, a 1987 article in The Oklahoman describes how an experienced fisherman felt like he had broken the state record for hybrid bass with a broken line fish he had caught, but which lab tests on his liver showed was It was just an old striped bass.

While we’re in the past, long-time readers may remember the 2013 Lower Columbia striped bass outbreak.

That year was notable for the capture of 52 pounds – including 10 pounds of eggs – by a commercial fisherman downstream of Bonneville Dam on June 17. Laboratory analysis showed that the female was 13 years old. The photos show that its black lines do not classically look like stripes.

THE 52 POUND STRIPER BASS CAPTURED IN 2013 BELOW BONNEVILLE. (WDFW)

Over the next week, a smaller striper was seen on video crossing the fishway at Bradford Island Dam, and then on June 23, a biology technician found a dead 15-pound fish on a beach in Lower Columbia near Martins Bar, also known as Lions Park. , by Woodland.

The trio was described in a July 2013 memo by WDFW’s Chris Donley, who noted that given the breeding populations of stripers in California’s Sacramento River and Oregon’s Umpqua River, it was likely that some were occurring in the lower Columbia, so there was “some merit in recording these collections/sightings, as it has been some time since multiple striped bass were observed in a (given) year.”

Do we see anything similar this year? I’m not so sure.

Granted, I can’t tell you for sure whether Frohberg and Cedar Oak’s fish are wipers or stripers – there’s also quite a bit of disagreement between anglers on Facebook and Ifish about them – but in one morning of reading online the guides to the difference published by various states, the hump behind the head and the depth of the body, as well as the broken lines, of at least Frohberg’s fish more strongly suggest a hybrid to my amateur eye.

And when I passed a photo in front of Donley, he thought it looked more like a hybrid and noted that oceanic stripers of the same size were sleeker.

As Frohberg stated in his original post about his capture, it doesn’t make much sense that there’s a windshield wiper in the Clackamas, but it’s also hard to deny what’s right in front of us .

God knows as the Willamette drops and clears up after last weekend’s heavy rains, there will be a few more anglers on the water, and even if they won’t exactly be casting nightmare jigs for springers , who knows, maybe the next chapter of this story. an unusual story will be written. Stay tuned!