NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Great fishing in Louisiana’s lakes and bayous doesn’t always happen automatically. The state Wildlife and Fisheries Department plays a big hand in making sure there are fish to catch.
Concrete raceways hold hundreds of Florida large mouth bass that spend their days spawning in the warming temperatures of spring. The males are aggressive.
“The male’s job is to defend a nest and defend the young. the female usually leaves when the spawning is over,” said Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery manager Kristi Butler.
Wildlife and Fisheries biologists look for submerged mats that are covered with yellow eggs. Those mats are removed daily.
“It takes a few days for the eggs to hatch and they’ll fall to the bottom of the tank,” Butler said. "These fish, when they hatch, they’re very small - about the size of an eyelash.
During the months of March and April, more than two million Florida large mouth bass will be produced here. Those bass will end up restocking public lakes and streams across Louisiana
“Before we started stocking Florida bass in Louisiana, the state record was under 10 pounds,” Butler said. “Now the state record, since we started stocking, is almost 16 pounds.”
The tiny bass fry are moved to large outdoor ponds, where they will grow to finger size and then be released into the wild.
“We work here at Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery to enhance the sport fishery of the state and help it out as much as we can,” Butler said.
Other species of sports fish are also produced here.
“We do native large mouth bass. There are some instances where we want to stock native large mouth bass,” Butler said. “We also do hybrid striped bass. We do black crappy, white crappy redear sunfish, bluegill sunfish, and we do several species of catfish.”
This fish hatchery in Forest Hill is a labor-intensive operation. They constantly monitor the spawning, hatching and growth of eggs. Also, they produce brine shrimp for feeding and make sure there is enough zooplankton in the ponds so the tiny fish fry have something to eat.
It’s all part of the effort to give anglers something to catch, and to live up to the nickname “Sportman’s Paradise.”
During the months of March and April, the hatchery is open for tours Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.