Cajuns, community and conservation boost future of bass fishing

Brac Salyers, LDWF District 9 Inland Fisheries Biologist Manager, helps with the bagging of 40,000 largemouth bass fingerlings known as F1s, or "Tiger Bass," on April 15 at Veterans Park in Pierre Part. Salyers and dozens of other volunteers were participating in Cliff Crochet's Every Fish Matters project.

Cliff Crochet hammered home the value of his three Cs creed the morning of April 15.

Also known as “The Cajun Baby,” an accomplished bass fishing pro from Pierre Part, Crochet was in his element. Bass boats were coming and going in the parking lot. The “dock talk” was all about bass and the future of bass fishing.

Crochet’s three Cs are “Cajuns, Community and Conservation.” Those, he emphasized, are the reason 40,000 F1 largemouth bass fingerlings were released by the public on the Stephensville side of the east Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee as well as in the Spillway.

The F1 bass were delivered just before sunrise by an American Sport Fish Hatchery truck from Montgomery, Alabama, driven by Alabama resident Kent Howell to Veterans Park in Pierre Part. It was the second stocking of F1s in the Every Fish Matters effort launched by Crochet.

Tiger bass

F1s, often referred to as “Tiger Bass,” are a first-generation cross between two pure subspecies: A special strain of aggressive northern bass and a pure strain of Florida bass. American Sport Fish Hatchery is the only hatchery licensed to produce and sell “Tiger Bass.”

“This is unheard of throughout the country in the amount of money raised,” Crochet said. “This is a huge step forward for us, for Assumption Parish, Atchafalaya Basin, Lake Verret, the whole system. This is a huge step forward for conservation. Conservation’s a big deal.

“It brings attention to how good our water is and how much room for improvement we have. We all like to catch. We all like to spend time on the water, but a focus on conservation never hurts.”

Cliff Crochet, foreground, of Pierre Part brings a bag of bass fingerlings to a waiting fishermen April 15 during his second and final Every Fish Matters stocking event in Pierre Part. His wife, Sara, second from left, and her sister, Ragan Theriot, helped the event run smoothly.

Then the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour veteran and four-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier said with a chuckle as he watched bags of bass depart, “I don’t want to be greedy but there’s never enough.”

Dozens of boaters and just as many people who drove vehicles to the site picked up 211 bags with up to 75 fingerlings per bag.

Community involvement

It began with a vision that led to a fundraising supper in July at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Pierre Part. The overwhelming response resulted in raising more than $84,000. The initial stocking was in March out of Doiron’s Landing.

“The plan to stock the waters was the easy part,” Crochet said. “That was the goal from the start. The tricky part was how to fund it, how to get that ball rolling. That was friends, family, community, fishermen. That’s who stepped up, the banquet, to raise money. This is just another great example of the people of south Louisiana. I might be a little biased, but folks in south Louisiana are the best people in the world.”

The Major League Fishing Anglers Association supported his project all the way. The Alabama hatchery was chosen because it sponsors Crochet’s friend, Louisiana native Keith Poche of Pike Road, Alabama.

MLFAA contacted the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for permits. Crochet noted he had beaucoup support and input from his wife, Sara.

Mitch Falcon of Pierre Part, 52, one of approximately three dozen volunteers that morning, said, “This is great. That’s why I’m out helping Cliff. This is a great thing that Cliff does.”

He also was proud of the local high school bass anglers on hand.

“Being affiliated with the fishing team, this is needed. You can’t have a bass fishing team without bass. I’m glad to see the whole high school Assumption fishing team helping out,” he said.

LDWF on hand

The American Sport Fish Hatchery truck was ground zero for the day’s project. Two tables were set up to put the precious cargo in bags filled with treated water and air, then wrapped tight.

Bass fingerlings known as “Tiger Bass” were released April 15 around Lake Verret and in the Atchafalaya Basin.

“We got here about 5:35 to try to get it staged as good as we could, trying to get an assembly line so we could hand out fish, so people don’t have to wait,” Brad Salyers, LDWF’s District 9 Biologist Manager, said.

Salyers was one of three LDWF personnel on site. The others were Ben Young, District 6 Biologist, and Kristi Butler, the LDWF’s Biologist Director for Inland Fisheries in Louisiana.

Butler said the state agency’s role is to ensure a coordinated, safe release of the fish and to prevent any non-target species from out-of-state hatcheries entering state waters.

“This is a great effort,” she said. “We’re happy to see any community effort.”

Butler also explained the blue tint to the water in the bags. The water has salt added to it that equalizes the salinity inside and outside the F1s to reduce stress. Blue dye was added to let volunteers know the water was treated.

Thanks to the three Cs, there are now Tigers swimming on both sides of the East Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee.

About Don Shoopman 534 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.

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