BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Speckled trout fishermen have something to smile about. That's because thousands of young trout were released into local waters Tuesday morning.
The successful trout re-stocking program was launched several years ago. The premise is simple: Enhance the speckled trout population in the wild by growing large numbers of little fish in aquaculture tanks, then releasing them into area waters.
A portable fish tank brought 12,000 speckled trout fingerlings from the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs to the Cedar Point boat launch. The baby trout, called fingerlings, were released into the estuary waters of the Bay of St. Louis.
One of the lead partners in this trout replenishment project is the Coastal Conservation Association.
"I've fished since I was a little kid. I grew up on the beach in Waveland. And I love it and want to make sure I'm able to leave it for generations to come," said Ernie Zimmerman, with the Bay Chapter of the CCA.
Salinity levels must be balanced before transferring the fingerlings from the tank to the bay. A salinity check of the water near the dock measures six parts per thousand.
"Our fish coming over, the salinity was 17. We have to equalize that as best we can. In the process, we're pumping water from the bay here into the tank. It'll take a period of time before those two salinities become even. At that point we can release the fish," explained the DMR's David Butler.
Area fishermen play an important role in this trout re-stocking program. Not only may fishermen catch these fingerlings when they reach maturity, but they also supplied the adult speckled trout or so-called brood stock that produced the young fish.
A "live catch" tournament was hosted by Bay Marina.
"Adding these fish is just going to be tremendous for the future of the fishery in our area. And all the future fishermen," said Bob Castoro of Bay Marina.
While the trout were turned loose at the boat ramp, Aubrey Cooper was fishing nearby, along with his wife and granddaughter. The longtime fisherman appreciates the trout stocking program.
"I think they need to replenish them. If people catch 'em out, we won't have any," said Cooper, who came from Laurel to fish.
Speckled trout are the number one recreational fish on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And they are fast growing. The young trout just released will reach legal size, 13 inches, in just over a year.