Nearly 3000 Strong

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — Volunteers from the Bartlesville Bassmasters and the Bushwhacker Weekly Jackpot Tournaments harvested 2,989 largemouth bass fingerlings from Hulah Lake, Oklahoma's nursery pond, in March.

 The two groups renovated an old nursery pond that was constructed years ago on Corps of Engineers property adjacent to the lake. Volunteers cleared overgrown brush and weeds from the basin while others reshaped the pond bottom to allow for efficient draining.

 In April 2008, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation provided 12,000 native largemouth bass — all about 1 inch long — for stocking. Volunteers planned to harvest these bass in fall 2008, but they couldn't get to the pond because of high water and mud.

 By March, the water had receded and the access roads had dried out. Volunteers provided a backhoe and concrete to construct a new catch basin. One club member suited up in scuba gear and placed a screen on the drain pipe to keep fish in the pond until the catch basin was finished.

 After 11 months in the pond, the number of surviving fingerlings had dwindled because of predators. But the survivors were strong.

 "The fish were healthy and fat," said Bartlesville Bassmasters club member Chris Roberts. "I measured 50 of them, and they averaged 4.66 inches long."

 While the 3,000 bass released into Hulah Lake will not likely have a significant impact on the lake as a whole, these 4- to 5-inch-long bass may have a foraging advantage over the native-spawned bass, possibly allowing them to take advantage of the gizzard shad spawn this month

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