By Brandon Butler
Hybrid striped bass, or “wipers,” are a genetic cross between striped bass and white bass. The result is a silver fish with horizontal black stripes and a black back — with the potential to grow large.
And fight like a freight train.
Wipers are aggressive carnivores, feeding heavily on baitfish, especially shad, making them a favorite of sport fishermen.
Lake Monroe has a large population of gizzard shad, making it an ideal home for wipers — which have reached the 20-pound mark here in Indiana. The state record for hybrid striped bass is listed at 22 pounds, 2 ounces, caught by an angler out of the Tippecanoe River in Carroll County, but those in the know are awaiting the day a Monroe wiper breaks the record.
The typical Monroe wiper falls in the 5- to 10-pound range, but larger 15-pounders are not uncommon.
Gizzard shad populations grow rapidly and can cause problems for other smaller species of fish, such as bluegills, that rely on the same food sources as the shad. Wipers neutralize the negative effect of shad by eating a ton of them. This makes angling for wipers fairly easy to understand.
We know the fish key in on shad, so lures should imitate shad. Rat-L-Traps are my favorite.
Fly anglers should also have a selection consistent with this understanding. Flashy minnow imitations in natural shad or bright colors are the norm. Lake Monroe gizzard shad range between 7 and 9 inches in length, so lures and flies should be too.
An Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) study aimed at gaining knowledge about the travel habits of wipers in Lake Monroe showed they move around the lake, but often concentrate near the dam and around Fairfax Beach.
A research team, supervised by Kevin Hoffman, a fisheries biologist now serving the DNR as a wildlife information specialist, studied wiper movements with radio transmitters.
“It was a true surgical process with sterilized equipment,” Hoffman said. “The whole process took around five minutes per fish, so we had to keep water pumping through the fish’s gills the whole time.”
Fish had to weigh at least six pounds to be included in the study.
The transmitters used weigh 50 grams, so a 6-pound fish was the minimum size limit because a transmitter should not be more than 2 percent of the fish’s total body weight.
The DNR had no trouble acquiring enough fish over the 6-pound mark, which is obviously good news to fishermen, because it means there are plenty of fish of the size we’re looking for.
The team monitored wiper movements with radio tracking every two weeks and wes surprised by the amount of travel some of these fish completed. A few wipers traveled the length of the lake from the southern dam to the northern reaches of the Crooked Creek area and back, but the majority of fish remained in the dam area.
“Fishing for hybrid striped bass at Monroe Reservoir should be very good over the next several years,” said Brian Schoenung, the chief of fisheries for the DNR. “Survey catch rates have been relatively consistent over the last 10 years and the hybrid bass population appears to be stable.”
The study helped the DNR gain an understanding of the travel patterns of wipers in Lake Monroe and served as a road map for fishermen interested in knowing prime areas for targeting these brutes.
This time of year, wade fishing on the beach at Fairfax and fishing on the lake side of the dam are two options for catching wipers. Once you hook one, you’ll likely be a wiper fisherman for life.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.