Experimental spawning procedure could produce young bass earlier in the year
MEADE -- A new project at Meade Fish Hatchery, near Meade State Park, holds the promise of bass that may start growing earlier and get larger in their first year than bass hatched with traditional hatchery methods or those hatched in the wild. Typically, bass in hatchery ponds or in the wild spawn in mid-June, too late to take advantage of young gizzard shad, a primary prey species for bass. This results in slower growth rates and smaller year-class bass that are more vulnerable to winter die-off when the growing season ends in fall.

The concept is relatively simple. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) fisheries biologists have built a climate-controlled building -- called the Bass Propagation Facility -- for the process. Here, they can manipulate water temperature and photoperiod (length of light in a day) in hopes that mature breeding bass will spawn approximately one month earlier than normal. If the parent bass respond as expected, the resulting fry will be reared in raceways to fingerling size by the time wild-hatched bass are still in the fry stage.

The young fingerlings would then be stocked in lakes, where they would feed on zooplankton until young shad are available. This year's planned experimental hatch will be stocked at Hillsdale Reservoir, near Kansas City, and Cedar Bluff Reservoir, west of Hays. If successful, the facility hopes to produce two million fingerlings annually.

"It's still in the experimental stage, but we hope this provides a tool to produce more bass for Kansas anglers," says Doug Nygren, KDWP Fisheries Section chief. "Bigger young-of-the-year bass in the fall would certainly mean more bass surviving the winter, bass that would be excellent sportfish the next season. We'll monitor the situation closely, but we're hopeful."

This is one of the first such projects in the county. For a web video of this project, go to the KDWP website, and click on KDWP TV in the upper right-hand corner of the page.