Concurrent with a recent regulation change, anglers recently helped improve the gene pool at Mississippi's Ross Barnett Reservoir, as they assisted with the stocking of 101,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings.
"We're not trying to increase catch rates by stocking bass," said Ryan Jones, a fisheries biologist with Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "We're trying to maintain that gene in the population. What you have in the Florida strain is a fish that has a longer grow period, so they grow bigger, faster."
For this third stocking in three years, fish were transported from the agency's Turcotte Fish Hatchery to two ramps on the 33,000-acre Pearl River impoundment. Then anglers used their boats to transport them in ice chests filled with water to backwater areas, in hopes of improving survival rates.
"Before, we dropped them at the ramp and they (bass) to disperse from there," Jones said. "Now, you're talking about dropping them everywhere.
"I can't tell you what the survival percentage is, but I can tell you it's better than dropping them at the ramp. It's a much better process. It's just great to have the anglers."
The minimum size limit, meanwhile, has been raised from 12 to 14 inches, after fisheries managers noted a decline in the number of bass between 15 and 20. "It's been in decline for about four years," Jones said.
"It could be a natural change in the population, but we want to be on the front end of it in case it's not natural."