Erosion and saltwater intrusion have crippled the bass population in some areas at the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildfire and Fisheries.
Sampling on the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area showed a 44 percent drop in bass collected between 2005 and 2007, with a 5 to 10 percent drop in lengths and weights.
In 2005, biologists performed 7,200 seconds of electroshocking, turning up 67 bass for an average of one bass every 1.8 minutes. Only two years later, 12,600 seconds of sampling was required to capture 65 bass for an average of only one bass per 3.2 minutes.
"In many areas they used to be able to shock, the salinities have increased," LDWF's Todd Baker said. "[Biologists] feel that increased salinity is really hurting the bass population."
In recent years, salinities in the area have reached as high as 7 parts per thousand. Bass cannot reproduce if salinities surpass 3 parts per thousand, LDWF's Joey Shepard said.
This ongoing habitat problem may attract national visibility where the Bassmaster Classic returns to New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta on Feb. 18-20, 2011, where three previous Classic events were held
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