Florida bass released into the Mermentau River as part of restocking program

Florida bass being released into the Mermentau River as part of restocking program

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -Those who love to fish will tell you, it just hasn’t been the same in some areas since hurricanes Rita and Ike. But there are efforts to improve fishing now and into the future.

When the hurricanes hit, they brought in saltwater that was devastating to freshwater fish, such as bass, to the Mermentau Basin.

That’s why Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, sports fishermen, and others met at Highway 90 and the Mermentau River to release 500 baby fish.

Biologist Kristi Butler manages the state's fish hatcheries. She says the fish will reproduce and help repopulate the basin with more and bigger fish.

“Today we’re releasing some Florida Largemouth Bass into the Mermentau River here in Mermentau, Louisiana. And the Florida Largemouth Bass is a strain that grows larger than our Louisiana native bass. So, the goal is to stock Florida Bass in waterbodies where they can cross breed with the native Largemouth Bass and produce a hybrid Florida Largemouth Bass that grows larger and becomes a trophy fish,” she said.

First, the tiny fingerlings are acclimated to the temperature and then river water is added gradually to introduce them to their new home

"These are about an inch and a half to three-inch fingerlings and they were grown at our Booker Fowler fish hatchery in Forest Hill," said Butler.

State Representative Johnny Guinn says the effort is important to our way of life.

"You know, when I was coming up they had a lot of bass in this river and a lot of white perch and brim. We enjoy it and what we want to do is maintain it for future generations to be able to enjoy and come here with their children and do the same thing," said Guinn.

And Dennis Tietje, a retired professional fisherman, says the restocking is working.

"We've seen the river, as far as from the fishermen's standpoint, come from a river that you couldn't catch a fish in to now, last year we saw anglers catching 50 and 60 fish on a trip," he said.

So, the little fish are released from plastic bags into the river. Some won't survive, but those that do will grow up and reproduce, and help make it an even better place for those who would rather be fishing.

Biologists say a female bass produces about 7000 hatchlings a year for every pound it weighs.

Guinn says there have been several previous fish releases and he hopes to see more in the future.

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