Though the new year is a little more than a month old, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has already stocked Lake Cataouatche with 3,600 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings.
The bass were stocked as part of a genetic survey program that has been ongoing since 2003. Last year, a total of 7,800 fingerlings were released into Cataouatche.
The fish were hatched at Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery and grown at the Lacombe Fish Hatchery.
"We like to release the fingerlings in the grass beds and during the cold months when the metabolism of the fingerlings slows down," Tim Ruth, a biologist with the LDWF, said. "The conditions help increase the survival rate. "
Last spring, biologist collected 131 largemouth bass from the lake as part of the genetic survey. Ruth said that 81 percent of the collected bass were northern, native fish, while 16.7 percent were hybrids and 2.3 percent of the fish were Florida bass.
"These results are comparable to those from Lake D’Arbonne and Cross Lake in central and north Louisiana," Ruth said.
During last year’s Bassmaster Classic, which was held in New Orleans, biologists also collected tissue from seven bass brought in by anglers at the final weigh in. Each of the fish chosen weighed between 6-8 pounds.
"Results from these samples revealed six of the seven tested bass were Florida X Northern Hybrids. Although this represents a biased sample, it is encouraging," Ruth said. "A sample of only large bass reveals a higher percentage of Florida influence."
Kevin VanDam won the 2011 Bassmaster Classic by fishing Lake Cataouatche. He finished with a record total of 69 pounds, 11 ounces.
While bass fishing in the lake has been exceptional for the last few years, several fishermen have noticed that grass is disappearing in Cataouatche.
Ruth said that the LDWF does not have enough information to determine the exact cause for the decline of hydrilla in the lake, but he did offer a few possible explanations.
Though hydrilla naturally cycles through periods of varying densities in other lakes across the country, he said one reason may be that Hurricane Gustav brought in salt water and scoured aquatic plants from the lake, depositing them on the shore and in the marsh.
Another explanation is that hydrilla is vulnerable to high turbidity (muddy water) during developing stages of its life cycle.