Speckled trout released into Bay of St. Louis

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A partnership between scientists and fishermen led to the release of thousands of seatrout into the Bay of St. Louis on Thursday. It's a project that involves USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab, the Department of Marine Resources, and the Coastal Conservation Association.

Two years ago, the Coastal Conservation Association hosted a unique fishing tournament. They caught seatrout or speckled trout, which were kept alive and used as the "brood stock" to raise thousands of little trout.

This week, 16,000 baby fish, called fingerlings, are being released into the waters of St. Louis Bay. Thursday was relocation day for the thousands of tank raised seatrout.

The first stop for the fish was the tagging table. Special needles are used to insert microscopic tags. Angelos Apeitos helped tag the small trout.

"I have a pedal on the bottom here and it inserts the tag right on the cheek bone of the fish. Once the tag is inserted, the fish slide down the quality control device, this chute that goes down to the different recovery baths over there," he explained.

Part of the process is making sure each fish gets a tiny tag.

"We then check it again to see whether or not it has a tag," said GCRL's Jon Wagner. "If it does, we'll then move it over there or give it back to the tagger for re-tagging."

Once tagged, the fish are transported in a special tank to a boat ramp at the mouth of the Wolf River. Water from the bay is then circulated through the tanker.

"The salinity in the bay is a lot lower than the salinity the fish were raised in. So the process is to pump that water into this tank to acclimate them," said David Butler with DMR.

Gulf Coast Research Lab began the seatrout program back in 2005, and since then, scientists have been refining and improving the program, looking for the best way to raise these speckled trout, which happen to be the number one recreational fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

"This year we've made a major advancement in our culture technology and this year we will be releasing more fish than we have in the entire history of the program," said program coordinator and marine scientist, Dr. Reggie Blaylock.

After a long morning, finally the seatrout fingerlings are set free, riding a fountain of water into their new home.

"It's man giving back to nature," said Ernie Zimmerman, with Coastal Conservation Association.  "We usually, with nature, we take, take, take. And it's a chance, an opportunity for us to give something back."

This week, 16,000 young trout will be released into the Bay of St. Louis. This marks the first time the lab-raised fish have been released into that body of water. Previous releases took place at Davis Bayou and Fort Bayou in Ocean Springs.

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