Bass release helps replenish Pascagoula River fish stock

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS  (WLOX) - A public-private partnership is helping restore the fish population in the Pascagoula River. The three year project involves releasing thousands of nursery-raised bass into the river to help replace the large number of fish killed by Hurricane Katrina.

Transferring water from the fish hatchery truck to the live wells of boats is the first step in re-stocking. The largemouth bass were raised at a state nursery in Madison.

"We've got water in the live wells from the hatchery truck. So, let's temper the water, mix a little water into the live well," wildlife officer Jimmy Rayburn said. "When you can barely feel the difference, or no difference at all, then you can stock the fish."

Healthy fish are scooped up in nets and transferred to the boats. Area fishermen provide the transport. They'll deliver the largemouth bass to their new habitat in the Pascagoula River.

Clark Gordin represents the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Foundation.

"The loss of fish post-Katrina was tremendous," Gordin said. "Millions of fish were lost. And the funding for this program through Mississippi Power has allowed us to do three years of re-stocking, approximately 20,000 fish a year."

More than 400 fish were stocked in the river this time.  Professor Donald Jackson helped organize the replenishment project and the follow-up research.

"To make sure that we've got some good, healthy fish to help this river recover," Professor Jackson said. "We've been doing this project now for almost four years and having some really good success."

Area fishermen not only helped release the fish, they also have an opportunity to help with the follow-up research.  That's because each of the fish released into the river, is tagged.

Brightly colored tags on the lower head will help researchers track survival rates and where the bass wind up in the river.

"It's just been an absolutely incredible example of partnership in order to help bring people back into connection with a natural resource that we all just absolutely treasure," Jackson said.

Around 15,000 fish a year have been released into the Pascagoula River since the program began three years ago.

The fish replenishment project is paid for by a grant from the Mississippi Power Foundation.

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