It was January, and Joey Molliere knew the pond at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center was stocked with rainbow trout.
It’s a Christmas present for urban-area fishermen, a gift from sponsoring communities and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Baton Rouge and Lafayette also benefited from these wintertime, cold-water rainbow trout stocking programs. The center in Gonzales also was on the list.
“My cousin had never caught a rainbow, and we decided to fish the pond,” Molliere said Wednesday.
On the way to the pond, Molliere decided to stop at the grocery store to buy what he knew was a can’t-miss rainbow trout bait, a bag of small, mixed-colors marshmallows. Turns out there was a pot of gold waiting at the end of that rainbow trip.
Milliere admitted it was a slow morning ... until he baited up with a pink marshmallow. There’s no way to make up a story that tells friends and family that a giant bass took that small pink lump hanging on the end of a hook designed to catch a much smaller fish.
“As soon as I landed the big bass, we weighed it, measured it and took pictures, then released it,” Molliere said, adding that the plan was to get Gonzales’ taxidermist Thad Bellow to recreate the fish in a fiberglass replica.
The giant largemouth weighed 10.14 pounds, no doubt a Florida-strain bass stocked by Wildlife and Fisheries in community ponds from the state fish hatchery in Woodworth.
Molliere could have kept that lunker largemouth. Instead, he provided the opportunity for another angler to have the same thrill he had.
And his plan to have the fish replicated in fiberglass mimics one that’s been in place for more than 20 years.
The Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program rewards anglers catching a bass weighing 10 or more pounds with a replica. The current program on the state’s largest reservoir began in May and will run through May 17 this year.
The 2013-2014 program produced 61 10-pound-plus bass. The program’s website confirmed that 41 of the bass were in the 10-pound class, 14 were in the 11-pound class, six more hit the 12-pound mark and eight among the 61 — those weighing between 11.81 and 12.89 pounds — made the list of the top 100 bass caught from Toledo Bend waters.
Because most of the bass are caught in the first four months of the calendar year and because south Louisiana anglers concentrate their Toledo Bend efforts during this time, it’s time to describe the program Molliere followed on his trip to the Gonzales pond.
Here’s how the Toledo Bend Lake Association program works: TBLA gives an angler a free fiberglass replica for any bass weighing 10 pounds or more as long as the angler follows these rules:
Fish must be legally caught in Toledo Bend Reservoir by sporting means: rod-and-reel or pole-and-hook, but not bass caught by hand line, set line, net, trap, seine nor snagging;
Anglers must present their legal fishing license or proof of exemption when they weigh their fish;
Anglers must agree to release the live fish to the official weigh station for release back into the lake;
Fish must be weighed on an ASGS-certified scale at Toledo Town & Tackle, La. 191 at La. 6 (318) 256-5613; Buckeye Landing, 268 Buckeye Lane, Many (318) 586-4757; Newell’s Fishing World, 140 Newell Loop, Milam, Texas (409) 625-4928; or, Fin & Feather Resort, 245 Fin & Feather Drive, Hemphill, Texas (409) 579-2056;
A designated witness at one of the four listed locations must verify and attest to the weight of fish and the live release of fish back into Toledo Bend Reservoir;
A fisherman receiving a replica as part of tournament winnings will not be awarded a duplicate replica.
Replicas are awarded on the final day of the annual Sealy Big Bass Splash at Cypress Bend Park in May.
Approval of the state’s Catch-and-Cook Program, and public comment on proposed hunting seasons top the agenda for Thursday’s 9:30 a.m. Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting at LDWF’s Quail Drive office.