A disturbing decline in the number of bass in the waters of Kentucky Lake has led regional officials to think about solutions, such as stocking the lake with about 1.5 million fish in the next three years.
The Henry County Tourism Authority heard from several outdoors experts during a Monday morning meeting at the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce offices, which included representatives from Stewart and Benton counties.
All pointed out the problem that has developed within the last few years as the quality of fishing has dipped at the lake.
“Our fishery has suffered since the Asian carp has been here,” said Henry Countian Bob Cathey, referring to the invasive species of fish that has basically been causing havoc since appearing on the scene here a few years ago.
“In the last five or six years, we’ve seen our lake go from hero to zero,” said Charlie Ingram of Humphreys County, who has worked with Cathey to try and come up with a solution to the problem.
“I don’t see it doing anything but going downhill the next couple of years,” Ingram added.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has been stocking Florida largemouth bass into Kentucky Lake for the last four years, but it hasn’t been done any farther north than the Harmon Creek area, which is north of Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in Benton County.
Cathey and Ingram both think some extra fish are needed, and have been contacting fisheries to find out a prospective cost.
American Sportfish Hatchery in Alabama has offered a deal in which it would place 500,000 fish a year into the waters of Kentucky Lake for each of the next three years at a cost of $100,000 a year.
The Florida bass would be 2-1/2 inches long when placed here, and they would be placed at 20 possible stocking locations around the region.
Ingram said if those “fingerlings” are put into bushes, they’re able to mostly stay away from their predators, and the survival rate is about 90%.
“We need to be proactive to improve our fishery here,” said Henry County Mayor Brent Greer.
He added Stewart, Benton, Houston and Humphreys counties have also been impacted.
“I’ve seen less boats on our lake lately during the week than ever before,” said Bethel University fishing coach Garry Mason.
With that possible $300,000 commitment coming up, Greer said he would like to see Henry County take the lead financially on the project, since it receives more Tennessee River Resort Act funding from the state than the other counties in the region. Henry County gets about $500,000 a year from the TRRA to spend on tourism-related events.
Greer said he could see Henry County possibly taking on as much as 50 percent of the load if the project goes forward.
Stewart County Mayor Robin Brandon said his county has seen several fishing tournaments choose to stay away because of the decrease in fishing quality, even though the county has had money to given them.
“So we have money to help with this,” Brandon said.
The local tourism authority meets again Aug. 26. Greer said he wants the other counties to have time, though, to discuss the situation, so it’s unclear when a project involving the fish stocking might proceed.
In another piece of business Monday morning, the board OK’d a $3,000 stipend for the C&O Marine Kentucky Lake Regional fishing tournament coming up Oct. 26-27 at Paris Landing.
The event is organized by USA Bassin. The tourney is a regional event for members of that organization.