Over the weekend, twenty-two B.A.S.S. Elite Anglers teamed up with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to stock approximately 10,000 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into the Toledo Bend Reservoir during their fifth stop on the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail. This innovative stocking is part of the department’s efforts to ensure consistent, quality fishing for Louisianans, now and in the future, with the hopes these fingerlings will grow to become the next generation of trophy bass.
Saturday’s stocking event tasked volunteer B.A.S.S. Elite Anglers to pick suitable, protective habitat and transport the fingerlings in their personal boats to appropriate sites throughout the reservoir.
“Typically, fingerlings stocked into areas of good habitat will have a better chance of survival,” explained LDWF Biologist Manager Kristi Butler. “Our goal with producing and stocking Florida largemouth bass is to increase anglers’ chances of catching larger than average bass and the Florida/Northern hybrid largemouth bass grow larger than Louisiana’s native Northern largemouth bass.”
Anglers met LDWF hatchery trucks at Cypress Bend Resort Boat Dock on Saturday morning to collect largemouth bass fingerlings bagged with water and oxygen. The fingerlings were produced at Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery in central Louisiana, and were roughly 2 to 2.5 inches in size.
“This inaugural stocking event not only directly improves the fishery, but gives the anglers ownership of the lake, which is frequently selected for competitive tournaments,” said Butler. “In fact, in 2015, Toledo Bend Reservoir earned the top coveted spot on BASSMASTER Magazine’s ‘100 Best Bass Lakes in the Nation.’”
The success of the renowned fishery is due in great part to the agencies and organizations involved in the management of the fishery. Since 1990, LDWF, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Toledo Bend Lake Association, Sabine River Authority and the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission have worked together to release more than 28 million Florida-strain largemouth fingerlings into the massive reservoir. In 2016 alone, LDWF will produce and stock over 820,000 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into Toledo Bend, helping to continue to rejuvenate the lake and increase catch rate.
The effectiveness of placing fast-growing Florida bass into the lake is evident by the numbers of double-digit fish entered into the Toledo Bend Lake Association’s Toledo Bend Lunker Program. In 2015, the lake certified 81 bass weighing over 10 pounds. With only a few days left in the 2016 Lunker Program year, the program has certified a phenomenal 139 lunkers.
“That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries “get it.” They know what they’re doing and understand the impact and value of the resource they have here,” explained B.A.S.S. Elite Angler Kevin VanDam. “Their stocking of Florida strain largemouth has really taken off and produced bigger bass here than ever before. As a result, the fishing is better, and Toledo Bend is a “hot” destination for anglers all over the country.”
The Bassmaster Elite Series is the highest level of professional bass fishing tournaments, with only the best anglers competing in nine tournaments plus a Classic bracket event. Toledo Bend was selected as a tournament stop due to its notoriety as prime bass fishing destination.