Thousands of Florida-strain bass released in surrounding waters

Bruce McDonald
February 17, 2011 at 9:08 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Tim Ruth releases 6-7 inch bass in grass beds along the shoreline in the Lake Cataouatche area.
Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Tim Ruth releases 6-7 inch bass in grass beds along the shoreline in the Lake Cataouatche area.
On a recent outing with Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Tim Ruth, I was able to observe the operation of releasing Florida-strain bass into waters surrounding Lake Cataouatche and the Salvador Management Area.

"This is not a restocking program. We have been conducting a Florida-strain bass genetic survey since 2003,” Ruth said. “We are now in Phase II of our program."

Wildlife and Fisheries agents started their day Thursday morning at the Lacombe fish hatchery. Water in a holding pond had been drawn down, enabling agents to seine the pond and catch 2,000 Florida-strain bass. The bass were then placed in oxygenated tanks and transported to the boat launch at Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego.

"With the temperatures in the mid 30s, the metabolism of the small fish tends to slow down and increase the survival rate,” Ruth said. “The agents had to get into the cold water to catch the fish but that's part of our job. We have released over 7,800 fingerlings within the past three weeks.”

We met at the Bayou Segnette State Park boat launch around 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The temperature was 36 degrees with a wind chill of 30 degrees. After an hour of unloading the small fingerlings into the boat tank, we headed out to Lake Cataouatche. 

Along the shorelines of the lake, Ruth, Gary Vitrano and Matt Duplessis began looking for grass beds.

"The grass beds allow quick cover for the small fish to survive,” Ruth said. “Birds and larger fish make quick meals of them if released in open water.”

With Duplessis at the helm, we quickly released all 2.000 bass within an hour. At 4 p.m., we were back at the dock with a job well done.

With that, the department’s 2011 update has concluded. A combination of 14,000 Florida bass fingerlings have been released from 2003 to 2005, all prior to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike. 

Nine thousand were released in 2010 and 7.800 in 2011. The bass range in size from 4-10 inches in length. The fingerlings are being released as part of a 3-year study and agents will take liver samples of bass in the area to allow biologist to monitor growth rates and the identification of species. 

Largemouth bass were collected by electrofishing in the Spring of 2010.  The genetic samples taken determined Florida bass from sub species. Samples were taken from 36 locations in the lakes and surrounding bayous.

The results of the surveys will determine the best management strategies for largemouth bass in the area.

"Growing up as a young fisherman, I always wanted to catch a trophy bass...10 pounds and upward,” Ruth said. “To do so, a Louisiana fisherman had to fish in Florida water. Now I see Florida license plates at the boat launch. 

“It proves our program is working. Florida fishermen come to Louisiana to catch trophy bass.”

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