Stocking program adds bass to Choptank River
Like aquatic Johnny Appleseeds, state fisheries biologists this year are releasing more than 268,500 largemouth bass fry and fingerlings into the Choptank River to replenish the population and improve recreational fishing opportunities.
In a report issued today, Tidal Bass Manager Joe Love outlined the program's progress and releases that are in the works for 2012.
In April before spawning began, adult fish were collected from Mattawoman Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River, and the Northeast and Sassafras rivers and placed in the Joseph Manning and Unicorn Lake state hatcheries. After the spawn, the adults were returned to their habitat and the offspring were released in batches into waterways in late spring and early summer, Love said.
In May, 36,000 were released into the Choptank River in a partnership with the Maryland Bass Federation. Another 170,000 were added to the river Memorial Day weekend and a third batch of 59,542 went in at the end of June.
The river will get two final fish transfusions in October and February, totalling 3,000 large fingerlings.
Middle River will get an infusion of tagged largemouth bass later this summer from the tanks at Wheelabrator Baltimore, where Linwood Wade and Joe Stankiewicz raised 7,676 fry. The refuse-to-energy facility has been raising fish for the Department of Natural Resources at its Aquaculture Center since 1986.
Maryland has been stocking largemouth and smallmouth bass in tidal waters since the Civil War. To date, more than 4 million fish, from 1-inch to 8-inches long, have been raised and released. Fisheries managers target one or two waterways a year to achieve maximum impact.
It will take two years for the fry and fingerlings to grow to catchable size, Love said. It is hoped that in addition to improving fishing, the new Choptank residents will act as a keystone predator to control populations of smaller fish and critters.
Next year, Love expects to stock areas of the upper Chesapeake Bay and Wicomico River.
Photo: Randy Elliot of the Maryland Bass Federation holds a bag of largemouth bass fry before their release into the Choptank River.