- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says 22 professional anglers helped get about 10,000 bass fingerlings into the best habitat on Toledo Bend.

A news release Monday said the department brought 10,000 baby Florida hybrid largemouth bass for contestants to release Saturday during the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.

Anglers were asked to take bags of the 2 to 2½-inch-long fish in their personal boats and release them in spots with habitat that would protect the young fish.

The Florida hybrids grow bigger than native Louisiana bass, said Kristi Butler, a department biologist manager.

“This inaugural stocking event not only directly improves the fishery, but gives the anglers ownership of the lake, which is frequently selected for competitive tournaments,” she said.

The Louisiana department says that since 1990, it’s worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Toledo Bend Lake Association, Sabine River Authority and the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission to release more than 28 million Florida-strain largemouth fingerlings into the 200,000-acre reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana state line.

It says Louisiana will produce and stock over 820,000 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into Toledo Bend this year.

According to the department, the program’s effectiveness is shown in the growing number of lunkers caught at Toledo Bend. In 2015, lake authorities certified 81 bass weighing over 10 pounds. With only a few days left in the 2016 Lunker Program year, the program has certified 139.

The weekend tournament was one of nine on the Bassmaster Elite trail.

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