Working with volunteer bass and crappie fishermen, fisheries officials with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have stocked more than 175,000 Florida-strain bass fingerlings in 33,000-acre Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson.
Fish raised at the MDWFP’s nearby Turcotte Hatchery were delivered to the Goshen Springs Boat Launch, where they were loaded into coolers in fishermen’s boats. They were then taken and released into preferred bass habitat on the upper end of the reservoir where fishing pressure is greatest.
“Instead of our hatchery trucks just pouring them at different locations around the lake, these fish have a lot better chance of survival because fishermen are taking them and placing them right into thick cover,” said biologist Ryan Jones. “I can’t say what the survival rate is, but it’s better than it would be just releasing them in the water in places where we can reach the bank by truck. Far better than that.”
Fishermen weren’t told where to put the fish.
“That’s a perk for some,” said Gene Bishop, who delivered more than five loads himself. “We can put them where we like to fish, but I took them to as many areas as I could in the safe amount of time to have them in the cooler without aeration. I made sure to pour them right into the thick cover. It’s kind of fun watching their reaction when they hit the water. It’s the first time any of them have seen any kind of cover, but as soon as they get oriented, they race to get in the thick of it. I guess it’s instinct.”
The idea of the Florida bass stocking, Jones said, is to add the sub-species’ fast-growing characteristic to the gene pool.