Fishing while waiting

The members of the Henry County bass fishing team decided to do a little fishing while they waited for the arrival of a shipment of Florida bass.

PARIS LANDING, Tenn. — The sport of bass fishing has continued to pick up steam in the local area with a Murray State team that won a national title last year and a Calloway County High School team that has established itself as one of the top teams in the region. 

For these teams and all of the ones that compete at Kentucky Lake, the program that started on Tuesday and continued today will be welcomed with open arms. 

After a couple of years of hard work and lobbying, Charlie Ingram of Humphrey County, Tennessee and Bob Cathey of Paris, Tennessee finally got what they wanted—a shipment of baby bass to restock the lake. 

In total, there were 300,000 Florida bass added to the waters, each measuring between one and two inches. The fish were delivered by the American Sportfish Hatchery out of Montgomery, Alabama and were the first run of a three-year program meant to jumpstart the population of the native bass in Kentucky Lake.

Jordan Hartman, a Murray State angler, was more than pleased to see the news about the program.

“Restocking the lake is such a good step in the right direction,” Hartman said. “It is exactly what the lake needs. Not only will the fishing improve for us anglers. The local economy and small businesses will definitely see a incline in sales when the lake starts to get back to how it used to be.”

The decline in the bass population coincided with the rise in the Asian Carp population, but with some measures being taken in the last two years to battle the carp, the bass numbers have leveled off. Now, the goal is to bring the numbers back to where they were pre-carp and possibly even higher.

“There’s no doubt the stocking needed to be done,” Hartman said. “I’m not blaming carp. I’m not blaming anything on the decline the lake has seen. The bottom line was that it happened and happened fast. I’m just glad to see action being taken. It really shows that everyone is all in this together. I’m not originally from here, but I am planting my roots here. I call HERE home. So I’m going to do everything in my power to get it back to where I know it can be.”

Henry County Mayor Brent Greer was on-site Tuesday for the first deposit and said he thinks this will work to offset any negativity that the lake may have experienced from the Asian Carp population. Ingram added that the carp could potentially wipe out the entire bass population if nothing was done, so they moved forward with the restocking plan.

“We’ve got a problem with carp destroying the nest or the eggs or something, because we aren’t getting any bass recruitment, so to speak,” Ingram said. “So, I called Bob, and I said, ‘We need to do something,’ and then I called the guy that used to own American Sportfish and I asked him, ‘How do we fix this?’ and he said, ‘The only way you can do it is to put those bass in there at two-and-a-half inches long in May, back in the bushes, and they will survive. You’ll get a 95% survival rate. If you wait on Mother Nature to do it then the carp will wipe them out and in two to three years you won’t have any.’”

TVA and TWRA were also on hand to assist in the process. Nick Morris of TVA said they were there in a support role and commended the efforts of Cathey and Ingram to bring in the new Florida bass.

“They are just hoping that the fish have a good survival rate and that it improves the sport fishing in general,” Morris said. “More fish should equal more people catching fish eventually. They are going to be pretty small to start, but they will get larger within a couple of years…It’s really about future generations. There’s a huge high school fishing ground swell that has happened over the last few years and Murray State and Bethel also have college fishing tournaments and teams. So from that perspective, getting the focus on adding to the population is going to be good for those organizations.”

For competitive purposes, this restocking should show improvement to the overall quality of tournaments held at Kentucky Lake in the coming years.

“I think it will have a great impact on tournaments because there were tournaments where out of about 90 boats, there might only be three to five boats that would catch their five fish limit,” Calloway County angler Landon Morgan said. “With the restocking of the lake, it will give all anglers a better chance at bringing in fish, which is good because everyone needs to have fun and catch fish.”

Over the course of the last year the bass fishing at Kentucky Lake has improved somewhat thanks to the ongoing battle with the carp. 

“The lake is definitely better this year, had multiple days where catching 30 fish was common,” Hartman said. “I was seeing a lot of keeper-size fish too, where last year it seemed like if you caught one it was just under keeper size. I’ve also been seeing a lot more boats at the ramp which is a good sign. I’m definitely excited for the future.”

Hartman’s excitement is shared by Morgan, as is the experiences over the last two years while fishing on the lake.

“I’m very excited about the restocking of the lake because I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of fish even though I could go out late last year and catch all the fish I wanted, but they were all about a pound a piece,” Morgan said. “The big fish were just not there, but this year I’ve caught more four-to-five pound fish than I have little fish.”

 With the restocking of bass and the battle on carp, the lake seems to be back on the rise. That bodes well for the sport of bass fishing locally.

“I’d like to give a special thanks to all of the commercial fisherman battling the Asian carp issue for the last two years because they don’t get enough credit,” Hartman said. “They do make a difference I have seen far less carp this year than years past.”

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