Big Bass return to area lakes despite obstacles
Published 12:53 am Sunday, September 9, 2007
Many bass fishermen in our area are asking the same question. “Where did all the big fish go?”
Nearly 20 years ago Florida strain bass were stocked in several area lakes. The fast growing bass prospered and lake records fell, many more than once. Then along came the drought.
Low water levels in 2000 and 2001 created a breeding ground for the dreaded largemouth bass virus. LMBV killed many bass, but that was six years ago.
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The trophy bass population should have recovered from LMBV by now but it has not. At the same time some people were trying, with success, to lift length and creel regulations on certain lakes, lakes that were producing trophy size bass. It was a double whammy. Creel limits were increased and slot limits lifted and LMBV took its toll on the bass.
Anglers from all over the south once traveled to Adams County and Concordia Parish in pursuit of trophy bass.
These anglers and their money now travel to other waters. Big bass, fish weighing 8, 9 or 10 pounds are now rare catches in our area.
Each year a few big fish show up during the spawn but it’s a rare story to hear of a trophy bass caught during the rest of the year.
A small 250-acre lake once drew many visitors to Natchez and Adams County.
Small does not mean the fish are small though. The Natchez State Park Lake is responsible for many of the 10-pound plus bass hanging on the walls of area fishermen.
The lake produced the current Mississippi State record bass, a huge 18.15-pound fish. Just about ever local angler that put in some time on this lake from 1990 to 1999 caught a 10-plus largemouth bass.
So many trophies came from the lake that 10-pound fish didn’t get a second look.
Some may think the lake experienced what most new or not so new lakes usually experience. A peak in the big bass population followed by a decline.
That may be one of the reasons for the current lack of trophy bass but another factor is to blame as well. The shallow water in the Natchez State Park Lake was covered with a good crop of hydrilla and coontail moss.
Bass as well as bream, crawfish and baitfish thrive in waters that have a lot of moss. The downside is some people have a hard time fishing the moss especially if they like to sight fish during the spawn.
Grass carp were released into the lake to help “control” the grass and make it easier to catch the bass. The grass carp (white amur) is native to the Amur River in Asia.
The fish was imported to control nuisance grass in small waters. The problem with grass carp is they either did not do their job or they did it too well. Unfortunately they did it too well in the Natchez State Park Lake.
The carp grew to 40 and even 50 pounds eating everything green in the water. All the vegetation along with the algae was gobbled up by these “water cows.”
The baitfish had nowhere to hide and spawn. The bass ate all the bait and the fishermen caught the bass.
The bass began to disappear along with the lake’s lush vegetation. The good news is the grass carp released in the lake were sterile and they only live about 10 years.
The carp are beginning to die off and the moss will soon return. When the moss comes back the big bass will start to show up.
Across the river in Concordia Parish we had a good thing going on Lake Concordia throughout the 1990s.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries stocked the lake with thousands of Florida bass. A 15 to 19 inch slot limit was put in place along with a 5-bass creel limit.
Trophy bass were showing up on the end of many peoples fishing line. I held the unofficial lake record for 5 years with a 9.56-pound fish caught in 1993.
When the Florida bass population took off that record fell many times. The lake record bass now stands at 13.05 pounds caught in late 1990.
No one has even come close since the slot limit was dropped along with the five bass creel limit. That same year (2000) the lake was hit with the LMBV.
Again a double whammy really took its toll on the bass population. Prior to this we were catching 30 to 40 bass a day on Lake Concordia.
Hopefully this too will be corrected and we’ll once again see the explosion of trophy bass like we experienced in the 1990s on both sides of the Mississippi River.
Eddie roberts writes a weekly fishing colum for the Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com