The best is yet to come for anglers who pursue big bass in Florida and Texas. Even though they have decidedly different approaches, each sponsors a program that optimizes opportunities provided by the Florida strain of largemouth.
Of course, it’s only logical that the two have differing strategies, since one manages for non-native fish in manmade impoundments, while the other focuses on native fish in natural lakes. As a consequence, Texas constantly researches methods for growing more and ever larger bass, while Florida has set up a system that both helps anglers find the state’s biggest fish and encourages catch-and-release.
Implemented just two years ago, the Sunshine State’s TrophyCatch still is in its “infancy stages,” according to Bill Pouder, a freshwater fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). It was borne out of the state’s Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan, with the intent of ensuring “Florida is the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.”
Word of mouth, Pouder added, has helped considerably in motivating fishermen to report catches of 8 pounds and larger. “If I’m an angler who catches an 8-pound bass and all I have to do is provide a photo and measurements in exchange for $100 in gift cards and prizes, then I’d be very encouraged to do it,” he said.
Statistics certainly bear out that assessment, too. From Oct. 1, 2012, through September 2013, fishermen entered 206 fish in TrophyCatch. But 679 bass were logged in during the eight months that followed. Of those 885 fish, 244 weighed between 10 and 12.99 pounds and 5 weighed 13 pounds or more.
As possibly the biggest surprise of the program thus far, three of those latter fish, including the largest at 14-9, came from Kingsley Lake, a semi-private fishery in Clay County. That discovery goes to the heart of how TrophyCatch will enhance opportunities for Florida anglers to catch lunkers: It tells them where they are.
Not so surprising is that Lake Istokpoga tops the list of public waters, followed by Okeechobee, Toho, Kissimmee, and St. Johns River. But 235, or more than 25 percent, of those fish have been caught in small, unnamed waters, including private ponds, golf course ponds, retention ponds, and undisclosed public lakes.
“Those types of waters aren’t typically managed,” Pouder said. “But that suggests we might look into that for the future.”
Also worthy of note is that TrophyCatch has given lie to the notion that anglers must use shiners to catch big bass in Florida. More 60 percent of entries were caught on artificials.
More of that kind of helpful information will be available to anglers soon, as FWC develops a more in-depth website for TrophyCatch, which will allow each entrant to have his or her own page.
In Texas, meanwhile, managers continue to look for new ways to improve the state’s trophy bass fisheries through ShareLunker, a program built around stocking Florida strain largemouths. Before the Lonestar State introduced the larger variety of black bass, its state record of 13.5 remained unchallenged for 37 years. Since stocking began in the 1970s, the record has been broken six times, and three since ShareLunker began in 1986.
Current Texas record is 18.2, larger even than the biggest bass documented in Florida at 17.27.
Courtesy of ShareLunker, Florida bass now swim in 62 Texas impoundments. They are spawned in hatcheries from the ShareLunker entries of 13 pounds or more that Texas fishermen donate to the program.Incredibly, 51 percent of ShareLunker entries are pure Florida bass, with the rest being hybrids. Yet sampling reveals that Florida bass typically make up only about 7 percent of a fishery’s bass population.
“A real value of the program has been that it has convinced anglers that they do not have to kill their catch to get a trophy,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.
In exchange for donating their fish, anglers are given replica mounts.
Right now, focus is on DNA and how tracking it might help produce a fish that could rival the world record of 22-4. While breeding ShareLunker entries to male ShareLunker offspring, biologists have developed a technique to identify both parents in future trophy bass.
Tagging already has revealed that sometimes entries are caught more than once. In fact, one was caught three times.
“I was a pessimist when we first started this program,” Forshage said. “We had no idea that one day we’d have 62 lakes producing these lunker fish.”
(This column appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)
Remember the mayor in the movie “Jaws”? He didn’t care about the reality. He cared about the perception, even though people were dying.
Some in the fishing community are that way too, I think, based on my experience writing about issues that they don’t want to deal with.
Recently, I posted a piece about “dead zones” degrading our waters and how, unlike climate change, we can do something about the problem. And, not surprisingly, someone complained, saying that the Gulf of Mexico “ain’t dead by a long shot, calling it so is a misrepresentation of the facts or just piss poor reporting on science.”
The only problem with that assessment is that I did NOT say the Gulf of Mexico is dead. I simply pointed out that a dead zone occurs there annually because of nutrient overload flowing down the Mississippi River.
Additionally, the “dead” area is not oxygen depleted from top to bottom, and I did not say that it is. The problem exists mostly in subsurface waters.
In 2013, I wrote a piece about how dolphins, turtles, and some species of fish are likely casualties of the Deep Horizon oil spill. I added, “No one is suggesting that the coastal states aren't open for tourism business or that the fishing isn't good, but some species still are being harmed.”
Nevertheless, I received comments from angry anglers who disputed the science and accused me of harming the sport fishing economy of Louisiana by writing about such things. (By the way, check out this article, which details how aquatic life in the Gulf is thriving because of the oil industry.)
Years ago, I also was criticized by communities and chambers of commerce for reporting on Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) outbreaks at major impoundments.
For me, the bottom line is the welfare of resource, and, if there’s a problem, I want it solved or at least dealt with in a way that minimizes the damage done. I don’t know the motivation of those who don’t want to deal with the reality, but I have my suspicions.
Like the mayor of Amity, communities dependent on recreational fishing for economic prosperity don’t want to acknowledge events that might discourage tourism--- and don’t want anyone else to either.
Understanding what’s going on with anglers who criticize exposure of fisheries-related problems is a little more mysterious. But I suspect that it relates to the intense political divide in this country between the Left and the Right. Yes, I realize that not all anglers are conservative, but the majority are. And they bristle at the idea of anything “environmental,” which conjures up visions of Big Government intrusions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and on behalf of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
That division is one of the main reasons that such controversy exists regarding new proposals for the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).
Yes, we needed EPA, ESA, and CWA for better stewardship of our wildlife, land, air, and waters. But over time, they’ve all been abused by environmentalists and bureaucrats to further political agendas and infringe on personal freedoms and property rights.
As an angler who prefers less intrusive government, I understand that. But as an ardent conservationist who knows the importance of science-based management of our natural resources, I’m not going to reject everything “environmental” because I don’t like what the word connotes.
* * * *
The animal rights movement is more active than ever before, and working hard to limit and/or eliminate fishing, hunting, trapping, and science-based management of our wildlife resources. You may not be at war with them, but they are at war with you.
This from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation regarding the battle in Michigan:
Efforts led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) over the last two years in Michigan have put the state's ability to properly manage its natural resources at risk.
Thankfully, those from Michigan's sportsmen's community and the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus have joined forces to combat HSUS's objective of stripping the Natural Resource Commission's (NRC) authority to manage wildlife based on scientific principles. These sportsmen efforts translated into nearly 300,000 certified signatures in support of enacting the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (SFWCA).
This citizen-initiated law will safeguard the NRC's authority to manage Michigan's fish and wildlife using the best available science.
On August 13, the Michigan Senate demonstrated its commitment to conservation by voting in favor of the SFWCA. The decision now goes to the House of Representatives, whose approval would codify the SFWCA without the need for the governor's signature. Lack of approval would send the SFWCA to the November ballot for popular vote where the emotionally charged and ill-informed campaigns of HSUS could sway voters from making the best decision for Michigan's wildlife resources.
It is imperative that representatives hear from constituents who support professional fish and wildlife management and are encouraged to vote in favor of the SFWCA on August 27. Opponents will be working hard to sway legislators, so it is up to the sportsmen's community to surpass their efforts in these final two days. At nearly two million strong, the voices of Michigan's hunters and anglers cannot be ignored.
Please contact members of the Michigan House of Representatives today and urge them to support the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act!
“Poets talk about ‘spots of time.’ but it is really the fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone.” ---Norman Mclean
“You cannot catch trout with dry breeches.”--- Spanish proverb
“You can observe a lot just by watching.”--- Yogi Berra
“Hell, if I'd jumped on all the dames I'm supposed to have jumped on, I'd have had no time to go fishing.” --- Clark Gable
“Only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned, and the last fish caught, man will know that he cannot eat money.” --- Cree Indian saying
“Man can learn a lot from fishing — when the fish are biting no problem in the world is big enough to be remembered.” --– Orlando A. Battista