Freshwater Fish Hatcheries
Louisiana’s freshwater fish hatcheries are an integral part of LDWF’s mission to enhance fish populations and provide more opportunities for everyone to use and enjoy these resources. Stocking areas with fish produced in our hatcheries can speed up the repopulation of a waterbody and help us reach other management goals such as meeting public demand for catching a trophy bass in Louisiana waterbodies.
LDWF operates four warm water fish hatcheries that spawn, hatch, and raise a number of important freshwater fish species including Florida largemouth bass; black and white crappie; blue, channel, and flathead catfish; bluegill; redear sunfish; threadfin shad; and paddlefish.
Opened in 1997, Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery in Forest Hill, Louisiana is the largest and most modern of LDWF’s fish hatcheries, with 53 acres of ponds, 16 outdoor raceways, and a spacious building for culture operations. It is the state’s primary freshwater sportfish production facility, and its central location facilitates the distribution of fry and fingerlings (young and juvenile fish) to public waterbodies throughout Louisiana. Since it opened, the hatchery has produced more than 70 million fish for release into Louisiana’s waters.
Also located in Forest Hill, the Beechwood Fish Hatchery is the oldest hatchery in the state. This hatchery began raising fish to stock farm ponds in the 1920s and has grown over the years to a 43-acre facility. It currently functions as a sportfish hatchery for stocking public waters.
Located in northeast Louisiana, the Monroe Fish Hatchery is only 11 acres but produces a variety of species including largemouth bass, bluegill, threadfin shad, channel catfish, and alligator snapping turtles.
The Huey P. Long Fish Hatchery in Lacombe, Louisiana is a 4-acre facility and is used primarily as a grow-out facility for fingerling (juvenile) Florida largemouth bass.
Booker Fowler’s visitor center, at 10 Joan Stokes Road, Forest Hill, LA, is open to the public. Hatchery tours are available Tuesday through Thursday during March and April (holidays excluded). It is during these months that the full scope of hatchery activities can best be observed, as there are fish of many different life stages present. To schedule a tour, call 318.748.6914. Admission is free.
Florida Largemouth Bass Project
Louisiana anglers love to fish for largemouth bass, especially a trophy-sized bass. To increase the potential of a Louisiana angler catching a lunker bass, LDWF biologists produce and raise Florida largemouth bass in our freshwater fish hatcheries. They are then stocked into Louisiana waters in an effort to increase the proportion of Florida largemouth bass genetics among our native Northern largemouth bass populations. Native bass do not tend to grow as large or fast as Florida largemouth bass, but they are believed to be more aggressive and more eager to strike lures. Florida bass can grow to trophy size but can be more difficult to entice into taking an angler’s offering. A hybrid of the two largemouth bass strains offers anglers the best of both worlds—more willing to bite and the potential to be a trophy bass.
To produce bass in captivity, males and females are placed in large concrete raceways with artificial nests for the fish to lay and fertilize their eggs. The eggs are collected and moved to incubation tanks where they hatch into sac fry (baby fish with the yolk sac still present). Over time, the fry grow and begin swimming at the top of the tanks and eating larger foods. They are then moved to ponds and grown into fingerlings, which are then distributed around the state based on management needs.
With a limited supply of Florida largemouth bass available for stocking each year, it is important to place them in waterbodies that provide good conditions for survival and growth. Biologists monitor Louisiana bass populations through genetic analysis of fish tissue, as the presence of Florida bass genes is an indicator of stocking success.
This project has been incredibly successful—state weight records for largemouth bass have been increasing since the first introduction of the Florida bass in the 1980s.