Scientists work to replenish striped bass

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A small striped bass has a big job in the Pascagoula River: to go forth and multiply. Scientists with USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab, along with the DMR, have been working to release once plentiful striped bass back into its native Mississippi waters.

"This fish was here. It was an indigenous species up until the early '50s and then it went away. We're trying to get them back. We'd like to have them back," said Senior Research Scientist Larry Nicholson.

This year, scientists have released around 21,000 adolescent fish. However, before a bass can take a swim up river, it needs a lot of pampering.

"These fish have grown from a size that is just barely visible to over six inches now.  These fish are tagged, and we have about 2,000 tagged in this group," said Nicholson during a recent release.

The bass are grown at a DMR fishery in Lyman before they are harvested and tagged with a bright yellow plastic tag.

"It is a clothing type tag. We use a gun like the clothing stores use to insert that tag. Of course, we go through a lot effort that you don't do with clothing," said Nicholson.

The fish are actually put to sleep before the tag is inserted under the dorsal fin.  Each tag has a label and phone number, so fishermen can report back a fish's weight and length, and where and when it was caught. This helps scientist track the growth of the species.

Finally, the fish get a taste of their new home as they are acclimated to the river water before being released.

Once released, they're on their own.  While Mother Nature will take her share, scientists have seen the species grow.

"The fish grow well, fishermen like to catch them because they are a really hard fighting sports fish and they taste good," said Nicholson who has worked to replenish this species for more than 40 years.

The next goal is to help the fish better reproduce in the wild.

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