Shawn McNulty

Shawn McNulty (center, in blue shirt), owner of American Sportfish Hatchery, oversees the transfer of thousands of small Florida bass into a release boat Tuesday afternoon at Paris Landing State Park marina. Henry County High School fishing team member Tyler Forrest (right) is handed a net full of fish, while his Patriot teammate Logan Thompson (background) helps. Several HCHS and Bethel University fishing team members aided in the release efforts, in which 150,000 bass were added to the lake here.

The waters of Kentucky Lake have about 150,000 more fish in them today, after that many Florida bass were released into the lake Tuesday afternoon.

A fishery in Alabama brought that many Florida bass to Paris Landing State Park marina Tuesday as part of a deal in which local officials in Henry and Benton counties hope to replenish the lake for anglers.

That was a response from local officials to what has been a disturbing decline in the number of bass in the Tennessee River/Kentucky Lake in the last few years.

Using funds from the Henry County Tourism Authority ($50,000 a year) and from Benton County ($25,000 a year), the decision was made to enter into an agreement with the American Sportfish Hatchery, located near Montgomery, Ala., to stock the lake with 900,000 Florida bass over the next three years.

The fishery is bringing 300,000 fish this year — the 150,000 they brought Tuesday and another 150,000 they will bring Thursday. The Thursday release will be at New Johnsonville.

When the plan was originally discussed last August, it was hoped that Stewart and Humphreys counties would also participate since they are adjacent to Kentucky Lake as well. If they had taken part in the plan, there would have been 500,000 fish released this year and each of the next two years, but those two counties declined for now.

Shawn McNulty, owner of the fishery, said his company hasn’t been involved in a whole lot of projects involving large reservoirs like Kentucky Lake — about four a year in places like Louisiana and Alabama.

The fish released here are each 2-1/2 inches long. McNulty said those fish should weigh about 2 pounds a year from now, and should reproduce by then.

The fish were brought in on a truck from American Sportfish, and three officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency were the first ones to get a look, since they had to compile data on the fish before the release.

Tim Broadbent, a TWRA fisheries biologist, said the agency was doing genetic testing on the fish, and gathering data on the average length and weight of the fish before the stocking.

“This is not a short-term project,” Broadbent said. “It actually, in the long term, will not so much improve the numbers of fish in the lake but it will improve the genetics of the fish population and the growth rates.”

He said a similar stocking project at Chickamauga Lake in southeast Tennessee was highly successful but full results weren’t seen for at least 10 years.

After the TWRA testing, the fish were moved into two release boats with the help of the Two Rivers Bass Club  and several members of the Henry County High School and Bethel University fishing teams.

Those release boats went to several locations on the west side of the lake and finished off the restocking.

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