Crochet’s Every Fish Matters Foundation gives out 82,000 bass fingerlings

A young boy and girl flank Every Fish Matters Foundation founder Cliff Crochet on May 11 at Veterans Park-Assumption Parish Recreation District 2 in Pierre Part. (Photos by Don Shoopman)

Like a proud papa, Cliff “The Cajun Baby” Crochet watched 82,000 native largemouth bass fingerlings arrive at a distribution site May 11 before being delivered around Lake Verret and the Atchafalaya Basin.

The Pierre Part pro bass angler’s Every Fish Matters Foundation brought the baby bass into this part of the world with the help of enthusiastic volunteers, a private fish hatchery owner from Alabama, who drove 10 hours to bring the fingerlings to Veterans Park-Assumption Parish District #2 in Pierre Part, and inland fisheries biologists from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen in vehicles with and without boats did the rest. To loosely apply a line from a popular baseball movie: If you build it, they will come.

Starting at 6 a.m., the event’s “assembly line” scooped fingerlings from Shawn McNulty’s American Sport Fish Hatchery truck, then deposited the baby bass into bags of treated water and filled with pure oxygen to ensure the health of the fish in their travels to Lake Verret and the Spillway.

Crochet, who carried bags to ice chests in vehicles and boats, along with others, worked the crowd and watched appreciatively.

“It’s good to see the end result after a lot of work,” Crochet said. “You see a lot of families. You see a lot of people outdoors.”

It was the third fish stocking of its kind. Crochet held two fish stocking events last year following the Foundation’s inaugural fundraising supper in July 2022.

These largemouth bass fingerlings were released May 11 in Lake Verret and the Atchafalaya Basin by local outdoorsmen participating in the Every Fish Matters Foundation project initiated two summers ago by MLF Bass Pro Tour veteran Cliff Crochet.

Raising money for the cause

The 2nd annual Every Fish Matters Conservation Banquet, held July 20, 2023, raised $79,000. Crochet decided on a single fish stocking event in order to keep funds for an emergency, such as a devastating hurricane like Hurricane Andrew in August 1992.

The 41-year-old outdoorsman said he saw many of the people at the previous banquet who drove in that morning to pick up fingerlings.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “That’s why we do the banquet first. They can physically touch and take part in conservation.”

The Foundation’s three fish stocking events resulted in more than 150,000 F1s (also known as Tiger bass) and native largemouth bass fingerlings introduced in and around the Atchafalaya Basin.

While being videoed and interviewed by WAFB-TV, Channel 9, in Baton Rouge, Crochet said, “The whole focus of the project is conservation and giving back to the resource. Our first goal is to get to 1 million.”

Shawn McNulty, American Sport Fish Hatchery owner, shows the size of the largemouth bass fingerlings he delivered from the hatchery in Pike Road, Alabama, for the Every Fish Matters Foundation fish stocking event.

A special event

McNulty, 44, said there are few publicly driven events like Every Fish Matters. The hatchery’s delivery destinations encompass the Southeast and elsewhere.

“Anywhere they say, ‘y’all,’ we take fish,” he said with a chuckle, noting that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma.

His hatchery stocks F1s in Lake Claiborne and largemouth bass in Toledo Bend.

“I will say I work with LDWF on a lot of different projects, and I can honestly say out of all the states I work with they’re the best,” McNulty said. “They’re willing to help these local guys with a lot of things …”

McNulty said it’s also a pleasure to work with Crochet.

“He’s excited about the conservation aspect and just getting kids excited about bass fishing,” he said.

Kristi Butler, LDWF biologist director, oversaw the process of getting fingerlings bagged. Other LDWF personnel there were Mitch Hoffpauir, Manuel Ruiz and Ranger Romero.

Butler said the water is treated with a mineral mix that helps reduce stress in fish. A light blue/green dye visible in the bags shows the water has been treated.

Pure oxygen is pumped into each bag before it is sealed, she said, because otherwise so many fish in a small amount of water would suffocate. The water absorbs the pure oxygen to keep the baby bass alive.

About Don Shoopman 563 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.