By Taylor Ivy
Special To The Herald
ENID LAKE – Five thousand hatchling paddlefish (spoonbill catfish) raised at the new North Mississippi Fish Hatchery at Enid Lake will find their way Monday into the Tenn-Tom Waterway in the latest release by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
These baby catfish are among more than 680,000 hatchlings grown at the Enid facility and released in recent weeks.
Justin Wilkins, director of the hatchery, has been watching the rapid development of the baby paddlefish, which will grow several pounds each week.
“Every Monday when I come in to work, they look like different fish,” he said.
Monday’s release will be the latest being carried out in accordance with a detailed management plan. The MDWFP fisheries bureau recently released Florida strain bass grown at Enid and distributed at seven lakes statewide. Three additional stockings are set for later this summer, a spokesman said.
Ross Barnett Reservoir, Eagle Lake, Oktibbeha County Lake, Geiger Lake, Columbus Lake, Aberdeen Lake and Lake Boga Homa have already been stocked with the Florida strain bass. Lake Mary, Kemper County Lake and the Pascagoula River are scheduled to be stocked by the MDWFP in upcoming months.
At Ross Barnett, approximately 150,000 Florida strain bass were released as a part of a management plan at the popular fishing destination. MDWFP District 4 Fisheries Biologist Larry Bull said the recent stocking will help Ross Barnett maintain its reputation as a top bass fishing location.
“From our work in the 1990s we believe that stocking Florida bass produce trophy fish in Ross Barnett,” Bull said. “Last year, we met with local bass fishermen to discuss the stocking in the management plan. Their input greatly helped us get these fish.”
At Eagle Lake near Vicksburg, 240,000 Florida strain bass were released. MDWFP District 5 Fisheries Biologist John Skains said the recent stocking will be a big benefit to an already good lake.
“Bass recruitment at Eagle Lake is limited,” Skains said. “Fishing improves a year or two after we stock and based on past experience I expect these fish to be in the pound to pound and a half range by next year. The bass we stocked three years ago are now showing up as five pounders.”
Oktibbeha County Lake received 25,000 Florida bass while Lake Boga Homa got 53,000 and Geiger Lake was stocked with 8,000.
“Each lake has its own management plan,” said Ron Garavelli, MDWFP fisheries bureau chief. “These stockings are an important part of the plan.”
More than 200,000 fish were released this week in an effort to improve the overall fisheries at Columbus and Aberdeen Lakes.
At Columbus, 180,000 Florida strain bass were released while 80,000 were released at Aberdeen. Prestigious tournaments, such as the Bassmasters Elite Series have been held at Columbus and MDWFP District 1 Fisheries Biologist Larry Pugh said releasing these fish isn’t just a numbers game.
“What we’re trying to do is increase the Florida bass numbers in the population,” Pugh said. “Over time, this will be a benefit to the fisheries as a whole at both these locations.