This summer, according to a DNR press release, the department began a three-year study on the effectiveness of stocking the lake with largemouth bass. Approximately 250,000 fingerlings and several thousand larger bass are planned to be stocked into the lake by the end of the experiment in 2015.
Fisheries Biologist Jim Hakala said the main purpose of the experiment was to determine the best way of stocking a lake to improve bass fishing quality. The largemouth bass, Hakala said, are anglers’ preferred catch over the related spotted bass.
“They tend to want to catch largemouth, which attain large size than spots. It’s basically an experiment to improve the bass size quality in the reservoir through trying to increase the abundance of largemouth in that impoundment,” he said.
At the moment, Hakala said, fingerlings are the only largemouth bass that have been stocked. Fingerlings are small bass, approximately 1 to 2 inches in length. Sometime in November, he continued, the larger bass, which are approximately 5 to 8 inches in length, will be stocked into Lake Allatoona. In both cases, the bass are grown in the Richmond Hill, Walton and Bowen’s Mill state fish hatcheries.
The need to enhance largemouth bass fishing was first highlighted by anglers, Hakala said. They noticed decreasing numbers of largemouth bass, which are preferred over spotted bass as they are larger. However, the decline in largemouth bass numbers is most likely not overfishing, he said.
“It’s unclear, probably not due to overfishing,” Hakala said. “It’s either — some of the ideas we have is the aging of the reservoir. The habitat is perhaps getting less suitable for largemouth, but spotted bass appear to be playing a role in that. They, for whatever reason, may have a competitive edge over the largemouth bass and that’s why their numbers, that’s why the proportions have shifted.
“Those spots may have a competitive advantage over the largemouth bass. If it’s occurring at a young age, then by stocking these fingerlings we may be able to overcome that.”
Lake Nottely is another Georgia lake DNR also has stocked. According to the press release, DNR stocked it with fingerlings as well to increase the largemouth bass population. The early results have shown promise, but officials are experimenting with the larger bass as well in Allatoona to see which method is more effective.
“It’s a lot more expensive to raise those larger fish. It takes a lot more space to grow them up to 5 to 8 inches in length. By stocking those we’ll be looking at survival between those larger ones and the smaller ones — basically which one performs better,” Hakala said.
Once the stocking phase is over, according to the press release, the largemouth bass population will be monitored through 2018 as they grow to adult size. Biologists will then be able to measure the stocking experiment’s success.