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Lake stocked with large mouth bass

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

Brent Hess, left, a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Frank Buchanan, assistant hatchery manager, prepare to stock West Point Lake with more than 41,000 large mouth bass on Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_FishStock01WEB-2.jpgBrent Hess, left, a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Frank Buchanan, assistant hatchery manager, prepare to stock West Point Lake with more than 41,000 large mouth bass on Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Frank Buchanan, assistant hatchery manager with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, releases large mouth bass into West Point Lake on Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_FishStock02WEB-2.jpgFrank Buchanan, assistant hatchery manager with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, releases large mouth bass into West Point Lake on Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Large mouth bass sit in a net before being released into West Point Lake on Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_FishStock03WEB-2.jpgLarge mouth bass sit in a net before being released into West Point Lake on Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Paul Jones, a fishery technician with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, holds a vial containing a large mouth bass specimen that will preserved for later comparison of DNA in other fish released Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_FishStock04WEB-2.jpgPaul Jones, a fishery technician with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, holds a vial containing a large mouth bass specimen that will preserved for later comparison of DNA in other fish released Thursday at Yellow Jacket Creek lake access park.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Vials filled with large mouth bass are preserved for later examination of their DNA.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_FishStock05WEB-2.jpgVials filled with large mouth bass are preserved for later examination of their DNA.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Brent Hess, left, a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, completes paperwork prior to releasing more than 41,000 large mouth bass into West Point Lake on Thursday.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_FishStock06WEB-2.jpgBrent Hess, left, a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, completes paperwork prior to releasing more than 41,000 large mouth bass into West Point Lake on Thursday.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

LaGRANGE — There are some new fish in West Point Lake this week — 41,264 to be exact.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources on Thursday stocked the lake with large mouth bass grown in a hatchery in Richmond Hill, near Savannah, according to Brent Hess, a fisheries biologist with DNR.

“We’re stocking large mouth bass, and this is the first time we’ve ever done that, except for when it opened,” said Hess, who is based in LaGrange. “Through the age of the lake and the water quality in the early 1990s, that cut down on the productivity of the large mouth. During that decline, the spotted bass took over, which is not an acceptable alternative. It’s non-native, and it doesn’t get nearly as big.”

Only one other lake — Allatoona near Cartersville — has been stocked by DNR with large mouth bass, Hess said.

“We’re kind of on the cutting edge, because there aren’t a lot of large mouth bass stocked in Georgia, but this is kind of where we think we’re going,” he said. “I felt pretty privileged when I requested this and they said they’d try to get us some. We had to do some work, we had to get some support and prove that we needed it.”

Scott Robinson, regional operations manager for DNR, explained that the large mouths stocked in West Point Lake were grown in the Richmond Hill hatchery and came from good stock. The biologists used bass that were collected from areas around Montgomery Lake, where in 1932, the world record for large mouth bass was set when George W. Perry caught one weighing 22 pounds, 4 ounces, he said.

The specimens stocked in the lake last week aren’t that big, though. The average size of the fish was 2.14 inches, and Hess explained it will take between two and three years for the fish to grow to 14 inches, at which point fishermen don’t have to throw them back in the lake.

“What we’ve done here is they’ve got a little bit different genetics,” Hess explained. “We’re trying to put more large mouth bass in there, as opposed to the spots (spotted bass), and also introduce these genes in here, so they’ll get a little bigger and more aggressive. Our goal is to boost the size and population.”

The fish — all 131 pounds of them — were brought in from Richmond Hill on a DNR truck outfitted with special tanks. The biologists took special care to introduce the fish into the lake, taking water samples and temperature measurements. Once it was time to release them, a long, wide hose was fed into the lake at Yellow Jacket Creek access park and the fish were piped into the water.

Sitting in a fishing boat Thursday, Ray Roesel of the West Point Lake Coalition watched the DNR agents stock the lake.

“As a matter of fact, when they first put them in Allatoona, we said ‘OK, how about us?’” Roesel said. “And now it’s happening.”

He hopes the new fish will attract fisherman from across the region to come to West Point Lake.

“We have a lot of tournaments,” he said of the lake. “The more fish you catch, the more people will come. We’re trying to restock and put more large mouth in here, because a lot of them have been caught out. We’ve got a lot of people that come from all over, a lot of states, and we want to keep that going.”

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.

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Video Caption: The Georgia Department of Natural Resources stocked West Point Lake with more than 41,000 large mouth bass on Thursday, May 12, 2016, at Yellow Jacket Creek access park. Raw video, no narration.
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