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Entries in Florida bass (21)

Wednesday
Aug272014

Future Bright for Trophy Bass in Florida, Texas

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.)

Wednesday
Aug132014

Stocking Helps With False River Recovery

Photo from The Advocate

Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation volunteers helped  the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF) with the next stage of recovery for False River this spring, as they used their boats to distribute 6,000 Florida-strain fingerlings.

“This is just one phase of an ongoing rehabilitation project that includes spawning habitat improvements, dredging, island building, and minimal water level fluctuation,” said Alex Perret, state conservation director.

Mike Wood, director of Inland Fisheries, added, “This is what a lot of anglers have been waiting for, and we’re working for them. We’re stocking the lake with Florida-strain bass because they have the genetic potential to be larger-sized fish.”

Recovery began in 2012 with adoption of a plan by resource managers to address the decline of the oxbow fishery. Its ailments included silt buildup, diminished water quality, and overabundance of aquatic vegetation, with the loss of fish spawning and nursery habitat.

One of the first steps was to lift the ban on commercial fishing, in hopes of reducing the population of carp and other rough fish that have thrived in the degraded lake. Last fall, 60 tons of gravel was spread to create six spawning beds, each 30 feet wide and 4 inches deep.

“We did these in shallow parts of the lake so the sun can reach the bottom,” said Wood. “All of this is just a small part of a much bigger project. None of these things individually can fix the river on its own.”

Tommy Bryan, one of the fishermen from Twin Rivers Anglers who helped stock bass, added, “You can’t imagine the economic impact this lake will have on the community if it gets its quality back. There used to be dozens of boat launches all over the river. But when the fishing fell off, the boat launches sort of just went away.”

Next, DWF plans to build island terraces to reduce improve habitat, as they reduce runoff and turbidity.

“The siltation issues haven’t gone away,” Wood explained. “This is really going to have to be a long-term project, a compilation of a lot of different things to get a healthy False River.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

 

Friday
Aug082014

Stocking Could Lead to Future Trophy Fishery in Arizona

Arizona Game and Fish photo

Could Arizona’s Roosevelt Lake be another Lake of the Arbuckles in the making? Bass anglers hope so.

The latter is a southern Oklahoma reservoir that has been stocked periodically with Florida-strain bass for many years and now seems to be teeming with big fish. For example, six double-digit bass were brought in by a 14-boat tournament in March, with the winning limit of five weighing an impressive 42.71 pounds.

Over in Arizona, fisheries managers stocked nearly 500,000 Florida-strain fingerlings in Roosevelt during April. A recent explosion of gizzard shad provided impetus for the move, and bolsters even more the likelihood that the Salt River impoundment will yield hefty bass in a few years. A milder climate and longer growing season than in Oklahoma will help as well.

The 13,500-acre impoundment had not received an infusion of Florida largemouths since the 1980s. And, according to Arizona Game and Fish, surveys since 2011 revealed “an 80 percent reduction in largemouth bass catch rates.”

Fisheries chief Chris Cantrell added, “We hope that within the next 5 to 10 years anglers and enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake.”

In Oklahoma, meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife Conservation has been working aggressively to create trophy fisheries, introducing Florida bass into more than 40 impoundments. Thus far, 2,350-acre Arbuckles has provided the most impressive results, but it is not the only success story.

“Oklahoma is really right on the line where you can expect Florida bass to be successful,” said biologist Cliff Sager, pointing out that fisheries in the southern half of the state have shown the best potential.

“There’s a reason Cedar Lake (southeastern Oklahoma) has broken the state record twice.”

In March of 2012, Benny Williams Jr. caught a 14-pound, 12.3-ounce lunker in the 86-acre lake to break the 13-year-old state record. A year later, Dale Miller beat that with a Cedar Lake giant weighing 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces.

Also in 2013, Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson brought in a five-fish limit of 42 pounds at Arbuckles.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Jun132014

Oklahoma Stocks 1.8 Million Florida Bass

From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Florida Largemouth Bass Program had another great year of production for 2014. The program produced more than 1.8 million Florida bass, which allowed 31 lakes to be stocked. This year's production ranks as the second-best behind the record 2.2 million fish stocked just last year.

The goal of the Florida bass program is to produce trophy bass for Oklahoma anglers. To do so, genetically pure Florida bass are stocked into the state's lakes to influence the genetics of the native bass populations. Bass with Florida genes are able to grow larger more quickly than the native Northern largemouth bass. Except for one fish, every state-record bass since 1979 has been a Florida bass or a Florida hybrid bass.

Oklahoma's current state record largemouth bass was caught in Cedar Lake in March 2013 and weighed 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces. "Oklahoma is really right on the line of where you can expect Florida bass to be successful," said Cliff Sager, south central region senior biologist. Sager continues to say, "Lakes in the southern half of Oklahoma have shown much greater success in sustaining Florida-strain bass. There's a reason Cedar Lake (in southeastern Oklahoma) has broken the state record two years in a row."

Stocking sites are chosen by a committee of biologists based on many criteria. The committee considers the documented success in trophy bass production, as well as angler pressure. Also, lakes with better habitat for bass are more likely to be stocked than lakes where good bass habitat doesn't exist. Sager said growing trophy bass in a particular lake "is an eight- to 10-year investment." Therefore, the Wildlife Department concentrates on the waters that hold the most promise for producing trophy bass.

All of the Florida bass that the Department stocks are spawned at the Durant hatchery. Most of the fish are raised there, but some of the fry are distributed to state hatcheries in Byron and Holdenville for raising. The state's fourth hatchery at Medicine Park gets involved by helping to deliver FLMB fry and fingerlings to the various lakes for stocking.

This year's above-average production of FLMB can be credited to better spawning and improved handling techniques being used by hatchery technicians. Improved techniques have allowed record fish production the past two years, and Ike McKay, project leader at the Durant State Fish Hatchery, credits "the commitment and cooperation of everyone involved."

Sager said, "it truly is a coordinated effort to raise and stock that many fish over a short period of time and speaks to the dedication of the Wildlife Department to improve our fisheries resources."

To see a list of the 31 lakes stocked with FLMB this year go to 2014 Largemouth Bass Stocking Report.

Tuesday
May062014

More Tennessee Waters May Be Stocked with Florida Bass

Now that stocking of Florida-strain bass in Lake Chickamauga has proven a success, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is going to investigate introducing them into other waters.

“We don’t want to throw money away,” said Bobby Wilson, fisheries chief. “We don’t want to stock fish where we don’t think they’re going to do very well.

“But we’re going to gather some preliminary information.”

Fisheries to be examined include Old Hickory, Percy Priest, and Normandy. Biologists hope to determine whether Florida genes already exist in those waters. They also will look at aquatic vegetation, as well as water temperature and quality.

At Chickamauga, meanwhile, multi-year research shows emphatically that adding 2 million Florida fingerlings since 2000 has enhanced the fishery. In spring of 2013, TRWA biologists found that nearly all of the 50 “trophy size” bass from which they collected genetic samples were either hybrids or “backcrosses.”

None of those fish, many weighing 8 pounds or more, was either pure Florida or pure northern.

“A backcross is created when hybrids or their offspring spawn with a pure Florida or pure northern strain of bass,” explained biologist Mike Jolley. “Interestingly, the pure Florida largemouth bass was not observed at all, which has been the common theme throughout this project. Hardly any pure Florida bass have been collected during any of our samples.”

Jolley pointed out that several factors contributed to success, including good aquatic vegetation, an ample forage base, and consistent natural reproduction.

 “We are excited about the results of the Chickamauga Lake Florida Bass Project,” Wilson said. “Our original goal was to increase the percentage of Florida bass genes to 15 percent, and it is currently about 45 percent. But more importantly, these stockings led to a significant increase in the number of larger bass in the lake.”

The fisheries chief praised local anglers and tournament directors for assistance in the study and their desire to see a trophy bass fishery.