Lake Ouachita Nursery Pond Releases Black Bass


Lake Ouachita Largemouth Bass fingerlings are more than doubling in size at the Nursery Pond, enabling the AGFC to stock bigger, healthier fish into Lake Ouachita.

The planned 2016 Nursery Pond fish crop will be walleye fingerlings. Walleye fry from annual Hulsey Hatchery spawning project will be stocked into the pond late March 2016 and grown to fingerling size prior to their release

The 2015 Lake Ouachita Nursery Pond fish crop (crappie fingerlings) was drained directly into Lake Ouachita in late June. The final release was estimated at 250,000 fingerlings mixed black & white crappies. The pond prematurely drained some fingerlings on three separate occasions as heavy rainfall raised the pond level up and into the overflow drain. Small crappies escaping the pond early had ample nursery cover with the lake elevation several feet up into the flood pool. Lake Ouachita stayed up in the flood pool (above 578’ elevation) through mid-June.


District 8 Biologist Brett Hobbs said the growth of the 2006 year Black Bass crop was especially impressive in the Lake Ouachita nursery pond. 40,000 largemouth bass fingerlings averaging about two inches when they came to us from Joe Hogan Hatchery at Lonoke in May. After 37 days in the Lake Ouachita nursery pond the average was up to five inches. That much of an increase is excellent growth, Hobbs said. The 21-acre nursery pond is connection to Lake Ouachita in the South Fork area near the Corps of Engineers Joplin Recreation Area.

Lake Ouachita Map


During the black bass fingerlings stay at the nursery pond they enjoy a predator-free and food-filled environment that allows for rapid growth. The nursery pond drains the Black Bass at about 5 inches directly into Lake Ouachita once they deplete the provided food source in the pond.

Hobbs said:
"These fish go on a feeding frenzy and if we don't release them when the food is gone, they'll find ways to keep up the pace. Some of those bull fingerlings will turn on the smaller ones. We watch for when to release them so we don't start loosing the crop to itself". While careful monitoring is needed, the nursery pond eliminates other traditional hatchery stockings problems.

When the Black Bass Fingerlings are allowed to reach larger sizes before release they are more resistant to natural predators.
The ability to Drain into Lake Ouachita lake also reduces the risk of transportation shock.

Hobbs said the situation is ideal for many of the fish species we produce. We've had great success with this kind of setup for walleye, crappie and striped bass as well as largemouth bass.
Typical largemouth bass production years involve a series of management practices. Sealable gates allow the pond to collect rainfall runoff in winter. In early spring the pond accumulates food sources. Stocked fathead minnows begin to spawn and inorganic and organic fertilizers like alfalfa pellets, hay and cottonseed meal stimulate plankton growth. By late May the pond is teeming with fathead minnow forage, enough to feed the 40,000 fingerling bass typically stocked. The fingerlings feed until the minnows are exhausted and drain directly into the lake in early July.

Largemouth bass have been the Lake Ouachita nursery pond crop since 2004 and continued largemouth bass production is planned for 2007.

The AG&FC Black Bass Program

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