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Entries in Chipola River (6)

Wednesday
Jan102018

Florida Shoal Bass Record Broken Again

The Florida shoal bass record has been broken once again, this time by a 14-year-old angler from Alabama.

Fishing from a kayak, Sheldon Grace caught the 5.95-pound trophy  in the Chipola River.

“I fought him for about 30 minutes and then when I got him close to the kayak, the jig popped right out of his mouth,” said Grace. “I quickly reached into the water and grabbed him because he was the biggest I’d caught all day.”

In 2016, Jimmy Ray Tice claimed the previous record with a 5.2-pound fish, the fourth in little more than a year to be taken in the Apalachicola River.

But it is the Chipola, a tributary of the Apalachicola, that seems most likely to produce bragging-size bass in the near future. Starting in 2006, three low-water years produced big year classes that are now moving into and past the 5-pound range, with the stretch below Marianna typically the best.

“You can definitely tell that the quality and quantity of the shoal bass in the Chipola River are getting better,” said Grace, who often fishes there with his father. “I had caught about six or seven 2- to 3-pounders and then right at the end of the day, I caught the record.”

Additionally, the Chipola, a spring-fed system with a unique range of habitats, is the only fishery in Florida with a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass, a species that Steven Sammons of Auburn University's School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences ranks at the top for stream fishing.

"I used to think smallmouth bass were the ultimate river bass, but shoal bass have completely changed my mind," he said. "They grow faster, consistently reach larger sizes, and may be the most aggressive black bass we have."

The biologist who also is an avid angler said shoal bass "set up like salmon or trout. They are not behind a rock or in an eddy. They set up in that fast water, the first big drop in a shoal."

Tuesday
Nov212017

Florida Shoal Bass Record Broken . . . Again

A 14-year-old angler from Alabama now owns the latest Florida shoal bass record, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  

Sheldon Grace of Headland, Ala., caught the 5.95-pound fish while kayak fishing on the Chipola River near Altha. It measured 22.4 inches long.

“I fought him for about 30 minutes and then when I got him close to the kayak, the jig popped right out of his mouth,” said Sheldon. “I quickly reached into the water and grabbed him because he was the biggest I’d caught all day.”

Sheldon and his father often fish for shoal bass, one of the five black bass species in Florida.

“You can definitely tell that the quality and quantity of the shoal bass in the Chipola River are getting better,” said Sheldon. “I had caught about six or seven 2- to 3-pounders and then right at the end of the day, I caught the record.”

The former state record shoal bass weighed 5.20 pounds and was caught in 2016 by Jimmy Ray Tice on the Apalachicola River.

The Chipola River is a spring-fed system with a unique range of habitats and is the only water body in Florida with is a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass. The FWC has implemented several conservation projects to enhance this unique fishery. A video highlighting the charm of the Chipola River and the partnerships forged to protect it can be viewed on YouTube by searching “FWC Chipola River.”

To properly certify a new Florida state record, a FWC biologist must identify the fish species and witness its weighing on a certified scale. Anglers can check current state records at BigCatchFlorida.com by clicking on “State Record,” and should notify the nearest FWC regional office if they believe they have caught a record fish. Contact information for FWC regional offices can be found at MyFWC.com/Contact by clicking on “Contact Regional Offices.”

The FWC recognizes other memorable freshwater catches through its Big Catch program, which provides certificates commemorating trophy catches of 33 different freshwater species. Largemouth bass catches are recognized by the TrophyCatch program, which is a citizen-science program that partners with industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, to offer rewards for the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier.

Sunday
Feb142016

New, Simplified Black Bass Regulations Set for Florida

New Florida regs. could help yield more large bass like this Okeechobee largemouth for anglers to enjoy.

Effective July 1, anglers fishing Florida waters statewide can keep smaller, more abundant largemouth bass, with the creel limit remaining at five and one fish of 16 inches or longer allowed.  Additionally, many specific rules for different water bodies will be eliminated, according to changes approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“The intent is to simplify existing rules and increase abundance of larger bass statewide,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

The new rules will eliminate the three zones that currently regulate bass harvest along with 42 site-specific regulations for largemouth bass. This simplification has been a long-standing desire of anglers and resource managers.

For Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted basses, the current 12-inch minimum size limit will remain in effect, but there will be no minimum length limit on largemouth bass. In addition, the proposed changes include a catch-and-release-only zone for shoal bass in the Chipola River.

Anglers are practicing voluntary catch-and-release at record levels, report biologists. While reduced harvest of large bass is beneficial, allowing more bass under 16 inches to be kept may improve some fisheries by reducing competition so other individuals grow faster and larger.

The existing bass tournament permit program will continue to allow anglers participating in permitted tournaments temporary possession of five bass of any size. This successful program has been in place for more than 20 years and allows delayed-release bass tournaments to remain viable, but requires proper care, handling and release of all bass caught during the tournament (even those that could otherwise be legally harvested).

Sunday
May172015

Chipola River Yields Two Florida Records for Shoal Bass

Tucker Martin used a spinnerbait to catch this 4-8 shoal bass, a Florida state record.

Twice in a few months, Florida recorded a new shoal bass record. On March 8, Tucker Martin was the most recent,  using a spinnerbait to take a 4-pound, 8-ounce trophy from the Chipola River in the northwestern part of the state.

In December, Charles Tucker established the first official record for the shoal bass, also from the Chipola, a tributary of the Apalachicola. The Georgia angler caught a 4-pound, 2-ounce fish on a chatterbait.

“The best destination to catch shoal bass in Florida is the Chipola River,” said Chris Paxton, regional fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“ Whereas central Florida is especially renowned for trophy largemouth, the Florida Panhandle has numerous species of uniquely evolved black bass that we are proud to promote and manage,” he added. “It was a delight getting to document another state record from this area.”

Florida is home to five species of black bass, including the Choctaw, Suwanee, and spotted, as well as shoal and largemouth. While the bigger largemouth is common throughout the state, all five are found in the Panhandle. The first and second dorsal fins are connected in the four smaller species, but separated in the largemouth by a notch. In addition, the upper jaws of the smaller bass do not extend past the eye, as it does in the largemouth.

“People can distinguish shoal bass from Choctaw, spotted, and Suwannee bass because, unlike those other species, shoal and largemouth basses do not have a patch of teeth on their tongue,” Paxton said.

Also, shoal bass have vertical stripes above the midline on their bodies.

Historically found in the Apalachicola River, the shoal bass has all but been eliminated there because of habitat degradation. As their name implies, these fish favor shoal type habitats, which include shallow, fast-moving riffles and runs containing limestone.

Because the northwestern Florida black basses don’t grow as big as the largemouth and have limited ranges, the FWC is considering new rules to help sustain their populations. The proposed regulations would set a statewide five-fish daily bag limit for all five species, with only one fish 16 inches or longer.

In the Suwannee River, areas north and west of that river and any of its tributaries, shoal, Choctaw, Suwannee, and spotted bass  of less than 12 inches would have to be released immediately, while largemouth bass would have no minimum size restriction.

Depending on public input and a vote by FWC commissioners, the regulations would into effect in July of 2016.

Friday
Dec192014

Georgia Angler Sets Record for Florida Shoal Bass

Charles “Anthony” Tucker of Albany, Ga., established the first official Florida state record for a shoal bass just three days before his 57th birthday. Shoal bass are, pound-for-pound, one of the top fighters in the black bass family. His weighed 4 pounds, 2 ounces and was 20 inches long, with a 13.5-inch girth.

Tucker caught it using a Z-man Chatterbait with a Paca-Craw trailer, Shimano reel and Carrot-stick rod at about 2 in the afternoon on Dec. 6.

“Hooked on shoal bass,” is how Tucker described the outcome of his experience. “They are a unique fish that fights well.”

Tucker was having an early family birthday celebration in Florida and staying at Crippled Coon Lodge in Altha when he established the record. In making his plans, he checked out MyFWC.com and found out the shoal bass record was vacant and required a bass heavier than 4 pounds to establish the record. It was a slow day in northwest Florida but Tucker’s experience told him that often, when you aren’t catching lots of small bass, a real trophy will show up and make your day.

Shoal bass are similar in body shape to largemouth bass. Quick ways to tell them apart include the fact that the upper jaw extends beyond the back edge of the eye on largemouth bass and not on shoal bass or other black bass species. You can also look at the dorsal fins along the midline on top of the bass. In largemouth, the spiny first dorsal fin is separated from the soft dorsal fin, which does not have scales. On the shoal bass, there are scales on the base portion of the soft dorsal fin, which is connected to the spiny dorsal by a thin piece of skin.

Shoal bass have vertical stripes above the midline of the body; they resemble tiger stripes and help distinguish them from other black bass in Florida – the spotted and Suwannee basses. In addition, shoal bass do not have a tooth patch on the tongue, whereas spotted bass do.

Although historically found in the Apalachicola River, habitat degradation has all but eliminated shoal bass from the river proper. As their name implies, shoal bass favor “shoal" type habitats that include shallow, fast moving riffles and runs containing limestone.

“The best destination to catch shoal bass in Florida is the Chipola River, where Tucker caught his new state record,” said Chris Paxton, regional fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “Since shoal habitats are limited, the FWC is considering various ways to protect that habitat and all of the black bass species in Florida,” he said.

Paxton met with Tucker to verify the identity of the fish, weigh it on certified scales, and ensure Tucker took it legally, with a valid fishing license or exemption. His application was notarized and approved as the Florida state-record shoal bass.

Tucker was impressed by Paxton.

“He was very knowledgeable and thorough in ensuring the catch was properly certified, and he came out on a Sunday morning to meet me.”

State records require a biologist to verify the species and certified weight. Other high-quality catches, from the same 33 freshwater species for which the FWC maintains records, are recognized online and with a certificate, if they exceed specified weights or lengths. Simply register online and upload a photo of your qualifying catch. There are even special youth, master and elite angler challenges.