The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Inland Fisheries Division will begin stocking hurricane-impacted waterways this month as part of the department's Operation Jumpstart.
Inland Fisheries staff has targeted areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as the highest priority in the division's annual fish stocking program. Katrina created massive fish kills in the southeastern part of the state by raising salinity levels and churning up decaying vegetation that deprived many water bodies of oxygen.
LDWF biologists and technicians will stock Phase 1 Florida largemouth bass that are one inch in length and produced by LDWF's Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery, south of Alexandria. These fish are expected to grow to eight inches after their first year and 11 to 12 inches in year two.
"Our personnel have been assessing the impacted areas to ensure that the water bodies can sustain a largemouth bass population," LDWF Inland Fisheries Biologist Program Manager Joey Shepard said. "We look at salinity levels, water quality and the food source for the largemouth bass to help us decide if a water body is ready for a bass stocking."
Most Hurricane Rita damaged water bodies in the southwest part of the state still have not returned to pre-storm conditions that would support a bass stocking effort. The exception, at this time, is the Calcasieu River which will be among the first rivers stocked during Operation Jumpstart. Rivers recover more quickly than lakes because they have a continuous flow, which removes salinity and improves oxygen levels faster.
"We have not overlooked any area that needs more fish, but some areas received less damage and recover quicker than others," Shepard said. "We don't want to stock bass in an area where they have little to no chance of survival at this time when we have other areas that are ready and in need."
LDWF has scheduled 63 initial bass stockings statewide this spring and requested over 6.3 million bass from the Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery. Once the hurricane impacted areas receive their fish stock, LDWF will complete the annual program goals state wide. The Louisiana Bass Federation and the Association of Louisiana Bass Clubs will assist with the stockings.
For more information, contact Joey Shepard at 225-765-2333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.