VIDALIA – Concordia Parish is a fisherman’s paradise. It is a land of backwaters, ancient river channels and bayous. The mayor of Vidalia, Buz Craft, said he views the quality fishing found in the parish as a tool for economic development.
A former professional fisherman, Craft competed in the Fishing League Worldwide before running out of time to fish. Now he’s working to bring Major League fishing back to the area with help from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Craft’s plan is to have the LDWF stock from Lake St. John, Lake Bruin, Lake Concordia, and Lake Black River, each with 100,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass fry. This restocking would take place every year and would improve the quality of the fishery, he said.
âWhen you put 100,000 fry in a lake, a lot of them will be caught before they reach their big size,â Craft said. âYou put so many fish in the lake and many will survive. In three years, you could have 300,000 more Florida bass in the lakes. They can reproduce and improve the gene pool of fish in our lakes. “
Black River Lake is connected to Horseshoe Lake by Workinger Bayou. Many fish stocked at Black River could be heading to Horseshoe Lake, also known as Cocodrie Lake, which was the site of a Major League fishing tournament in 2018.
Florida strain largemouth bass have the ability to gain weight, Craft said. Fishing in the Parish of Concordia attracts people from all over and creates business opportunities.
âWhen people fish here, they buy food and groceries,â Craft said. âIt’s something that people don’t see. We are trying to improve it and expand knowledge and opportunities. I want people to come and fish in our lakes and rivers and stay in our hotels.
Residents of the Miss-Lou area have great fishing opportunities around them. On US 61 South, Wilkinson County has an extensive county pond of pine trees providing shade along the shoreline. Across the river, Vidalia offers an urban pond to the Concordia Parish Recreation Complex. Every year the LDWF fills the pond with catfish and in the winter they fill it with rainbow trout. People are welcome to fish in the pond and keep catfish or trout to take home, but are instructed to catch and release any game fish such as bass, crappie or crappie.
Craft said the pond was originally built because the previous administration needed soil to level the ball fields. It has now been expanded to include a fishing pier, which was reopened after the planks were replaced.
âNot many people have a boat and can go fishing,â Craft said. âThey can come here and fish.
In the past, there have been tournaments for people to clean up waste from lakes and cut lines in trees. It was part of Mossy Oak’s National Conservation Day, and he hopes to bring it back next year.
Last spring, high schools participated in a bass fishing tournament on local lakes. Engaging young people in fishing is one of his other goals, he said.
âI’m interested in it because it’s a good sport for our kids,â said Craft. âIt’s really fun and healthy. Who knows, maybe the next young fisherman will grow up here in Vidalia. “
Fishing offers an opportunity to create memories, he said. Each of the lakes in Concordia Parish has a special place in its history and memory.
âIf I can ride any of them at this point in my life, I’m a happy man,â Craft said. âAll of them have the potential to make you have a great day any day. I call it hydrotherapy. I love the challenge and being on the water. I think if people focus more on the capture than the experience, they are missing the boat. My favorite time to fish is when I can go.