Restocking of striped bass continues along the Coast
February 13 2010
By AL JONES - [email protected]
LYMAN — Whether it’s freshwater or saltwater, fishing continues to improve in South Mississippi nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina.
While it might be a long shot to determine how many years the storm set the fish kill back on the Coast, the restocking measures continue.
Speckled trout and bass have been restocked in South Mississippi’s major water ways in all three Coastal counties to help offset the fish kill.
Now you can add striped bass to the mix.
Larry Nicholson has raised striped bass for 40 years with the Gulf Coast Research Lab.
But Katrina dealt a blow to the stock like she did to bass, bream, catfish, mullet and even a few trout.
The end result. A stretch of more than three years that no fish were raised and released into the rivers and bays of South Mississippi because of damage at the Research Lab.
Thanks to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi, Nicholson is back raising fish at the Lyman Fish Hatchery.
‘‘I am still trying to get them back,’’ he said. ‘‘Katrina set us back. A lot. Prior to Katrina, I was raising between 150,000 and 200,000 phase one (two-inch fish) fingerlings every year and upwards of 10,000 and 15,000 phase two fish (six-inch fish).
‘‘Katrina knocked us back four years. That was lost time for getting fish back in the water.’’
Based on the number of fish that were being released, Nicholson estimates more than one million were lost.
He could not come up with an overall number killed by Katrina.
‘‘It could have set us back a decade,’’ Nicholson said. ‘‘That’s not out of the question.’’
Despite the loss, Nicholson keeps plugging on.
In conjunction with the DMR, 200,000 phase two fish were released on Feb. 2 and 5 to cap off the second phase of the striped bass project.
The first was in June 2009 when more than 120,000 non-tagged phase one bass were released into South Mississippi’s waterways.
The DMR has released striped bass near Indian Point on the Pascagoula River, Fort Bayou near the Washington Ave., Bridge, Biloxi’s Big Lake. Parker’s Creek, Popps Ferry, the Bay St. Louis system and McLeod State Park.
‘‘It has been great,’’ Nicholson said. ‘‘After the hurricane we had been trying to find ways to start up again but there was no money for the Research Lab to rebuild the program. Through the grace of the DMR we were able to get it going again.’’
As far as recatching the stripers, Nicholson said the current stock is two years away.
The bigger six-inch fish, could be ready next year.
‘‘I hope they will all be ready to be caught in two years,’’ Nicholson said. ‘‘They have to be a (state sanctioned) minimum of 15 inches with a three-fish bag limit,’’ Nicholson said.
‘‘I think it will take a year and a half for most of the fish to reach that size. Some of the phase two fish were almost a pound.
‘‘We have been able to get the phase one fish out in good numbers and hopefully they will reach 15 inches with two years. That would be good to see.’’
Since the Coastal rivers are the main source of restocking striped bass, Nicholson said it’s good to hear the news concerning recaptured fish.
One of the tagged striped bass made its way up the Pearl River to the damn at the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
Another striped bass worked its way up the river system and into the Bouie River near Hattiesburg.
That fish weighed nearly 38 pounds.
‘‘It’s good to hear from the fishermen,’’ Nicholson said. ‘‘The fish do have a tendency to move up the rivers to find colder waters and deep holes.
‘‘We’ve also had fish caught out front. One guy, who grew up fishing on the East Coast, caught a striped bass in April a few years ago while fishing the surf at Horn Island. We’ve also had fish caught in the Rigolets and in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. But for the most part, our fish remain in the rivers and bays.’’
A toll-free number, 866-244-6420, is being set up for fishermen to report tagged catches and will be available soon.
DEPARTMENT OF MARINE RESOURCES Adam Jackson of the DMR releases phase one striped bass into the river systems of South Mississippi.
Striped bass sit in a holding tank before being released into the river systems of South Mississippi.