COTEAU HOLMES — Lake Dauterive-Fausse Pointe’s bass population was supposed to grow by 500,000 sometime in March or April.
That 1/2-million jump didn’t happen. Instead, the lake system’s bass population increased by more than 734,000 Florida bass, albeit very, very tiny Florida bass fry stocked Monday and Thursday. State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released 511,000 on Monday and followed up with another 223,200 on Thursday.
“Hopefully, we get some survival and get that gene (Florida bass gene) in there and grow some more big ones,” District 6 Inland Fisheries biologist manager Jody David of Ville Platte said after the deposit Monday and before going out again three days later from Lake Fausse Pointe State Park.
The 511,000 Florida bass fry from the state’s state-of-the-art Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery near Woodworth arrived via LDWF pickup truck just before 11 a.m. Monday. They were double-bagged in clear plastic bags, three each in six large ice chests in the bed of the pickup truck and chauffeured here by Ed Sylvester of Lecompte.
Sylvester, a state fisheries biologist at the hatchery and a 10-year veteran with LDWF, said there were 25,000 Florida bass fry per bag. They hatched probably eight or nine days ago, he said.
David, a 33-year fisheries biologist with LDWF, distributed the fish in a Pro Drive boat with the help of Phil Alleman of Cecilia, a fisheries tech IV who has been with the state agency since 1991.
Sylvester and Alleman loaded 20 bags (there were two extra bags) into the long, wide aluminum boat. David placed seven behind the center console and the rest in front of the center console.
To get those fish the size of dirt particles into the bags, hatchery staffers herded all of the fry to one end of each trough, netted and weighed them to determine how many grams were in each bag, according to Sylvester. It takes 453.49237 grams to make 1 pound.
“At 300 fry per gram, they’re pretty small but, hopefully, they’ll hit the water running,” Sylvester said about the Florida bass fry, which are 7.27 mm long, or 0.286220 inches, seven days after hatching.
The hatchery biologist said those fry will continue eating plankton for a while but start chasing other food in a system like the lake much earlier than in the hatchery environment.
“They’ll be eating fish sooner,” Sylvester said, noting that in 45-50 days, the survivors will be 2-inch long fingerlings.
As the Lafayette-based biologist looked at the dark clouds of moving fry in the bags, he said, “You’ve got to be an optimist in the fish business … Everyone’s a winner.”
David cranked up the Pro Drive and motored away from the state park ramp along the borrow pit canal that parallels the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee. He planned to release them in the borrow pit at the end of the canal.
When they stopped right after entering the “stump field” borrow pit, he parked the boat near aquatic vegetation. That gives the babies protection.
“Welcome to your new home,” Alleman said as he opened the first bag to pour the fry into the lake.
They released 13 bags in that corner, four bags near the front of a nearby borrow pit and three bags in the back of a Texaco Field canal, the old 111.
“It went good. I’m happy the water temperatures weren’t too hot,” he said, noting when the water is warmer than cooler water in the bags or tank truck, adjustments must be made or the fry (or fingerlings) go into shock.
David said he planned to release the majority of 1 million Florida bass fry Thursday in Sandy Cove.
The LDWF’s last stocking of Florida bass fry in the lake system was 1.8 million in March 2019.
The last stocking of Florida bass fingerlings, which are much bigger, was in 2014.