West Point Lake Stocked With Largemouth

Tyler H. Jones | June 12, 2016

Frank Buchanan, assistant hatchery manager with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, releases largemouth bass into West Point Lake in LaGrange on Thursday, May 12, at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

There are some new fish in West Point Lake—41,264 to be exact.

The DNR on May 12 stocked the lake with largemouth bass grown in a hatchery in Richmond Hill, near Savannah, according to Brent Hess, a fisheries biologist with DNR.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done that, except for when it opened,” said Hess, who is based in LaGrange. “Through the age of the lake and the water quality in the early 1990s, that cut down on the productivity of the largemouth. During that decline, the spotted bass took over, which is not an acceptable alternative. It’s non-native, and it doesn’t get nearly as big.”

Only one other lake—Allatoona near Cartersville—has been stocked by DNR with largemouth bass, Hess said.

“We’re kind of on the cutting edge because there aren’t a lot of largemouth bass stocked in Georgia, but this is kind of where we think we’re going,” he said.

Scott Robinson, regional operations manager for DNR, explained the largemouth stocked in West Point Lake came from good stock. The biologists used largemouth that were collected from areas around Georgia’s Montgomery Lake, where in 1932 the world record for largemouth bass was set when George W. Perry caught one weighing 22-lbs., 4 ozs., he said.

The average size of the stocked bass was 2.14 inches, and Hess said it will take about three years for the fish to grow to 14 inches, at which point anglers don’t have to throw them back.

DNR also plans to keep an eye on the largemouth. The stocked fish were marked with a special dye that can be used to identify them from wild fish, Hess explained. There’s also some science involved.

“We have the genetic markers to determine survival of the actual stocked fish, as well as their contribution to generations in the future,” Hess explained. “We sample the lake every year to assess the bass population, and to help determine any long-term trends.”

Hess said that if 25 percent of the fish survive, he would “consider that very good.”

He explained that stocking larger, more mature fish—ones as big a 6 inches—simply isn’t economical, or practical.

“There are many reasons not to stock bigger fish,” Hess said. “Stocking bigger fish also means stocking less in numbers. As an example, you can stock 100 bigger fish or 1,000 smaller ones. Stocking bigger fish doesn’t always necessarily equal more adult fish. Also, the larger a fish grows in a hatchery, the cost in raising them grows exponentially.”

There’s also the potential for future stockings on West Point Lake. Hess said he hopes to stock additional largemouth later this year, and he’s requested that DNR stock the lake every year for the next five years, depending on availability.

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