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By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

Members of the Percy Priest Striper Club specialize in catching big stripers (rockfish) and hybrids in area waters, and they play a significant role in making sure there are plenty of fish to catch.

The club helps buy food for the fish that are raised at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Normandy and Springfield hatcheries, a contribution termed “huge” by TWRA fisheries biologist Todd St. John.

“The donations allow us to purchase the best food available,” says St. John, who attended the club’s recent tackle-sale fundraiser at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet. The club’s share of the proceeds go toward the annual purchase of some 2,000 pounds of high-protein fish food for the hatcheries.

Submitted photo
A local club provides food for stripers.

“This more expensive food (ground fish meal and vitamins) promotes a faster growth rate in the hatchery fish,” St. John says. “When they are released they have a higher survival rate and get a faster start on their natural growth.”

St. John says the Normandy and Springfield hatcheries use about 14,000 pounds of fish food per year. The Percy Priest Striper Club is the only organization that donates to the hatchery program.

In addition to raising stripers and hybrids, the TWRA’s various hatcheries also raise walleyes, black-nosed crappie and trout for release in area waters. Because of increasingly-heavy fishing pressure, natural reproduction alone could not sustain the species’ populations in most waters.

“Our hatchery programs are vital,” St. John says. “Without them, fishermen wouldn’t be able to enjoy the quality of fishing we have.”

“We’ve been donating to the TWRA for about 15 years,” says Striper Club vice president Joe James, who offers guided trips for the big fish on Percy Priest Lake and Old Hickory Lake.

“We have a vested interest in stripers and hybrids, but we also support hatchery programs for other species,” James says. “In addition to the fish-food program, we work with kids and others to promote interest in striper fishing.”

Club dues are $20 a year, and include a picnic and fish fry, in addition to other activities.

“We’re just a bunch of guys who like to fish, and want to get others involved in it,” says club member Tommy LaCroix.

The club holds nine tournaments a year from February through October on Priest, Old Hickory, Cordell Hull and Cheatham lakes.

James uses live bait to catch stripers, some of which tip the scales at 30 pounds. The club-record catch weighed 38 pounds.

James supplies the bait and the heavy tackle necessary for landing the hard-fighting fish.

For information about a guided trip, or about the Percy Priest Striper Club, contact James at 615-804-5140.