Acknowledging that they're still ironing out the kinks, fisheries managers are optimistic heading into Kentucky's first full season of its new Trophy Bass Propagation Program, which runs Oct. 1 to May 31. Anglers contributed four bass of 8 pounds or better last spring, when the strategy was first announced.
"We really hope to see more participation from Kentucky's serious bass anglers," said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). "After all, this is one program where anglers can really make a difference in terms of potentially increasing the quality of bass fishing in the lakes they fish."
State fishermen have longed voiced their desire for Florida-strain bass to be stocked in Kentucky lakes, to improve genetics and, as a result, their chances of catching larger bass. They point to neighboring Tennessee, which has had some success with that method.
But Tennessee is to the south, and just a few miles can make a huge difference in whether Florida-strain bass thrive or don't even survive.
"If we had the same kind of year-round temperatures as Florida, then we would be stocking Florida-strain bass," Brooks explained.
Consequently, Brooks and the KDFWR are hoping to use some of the state's largest bass, 8 pounds and up for females and 6 pounds and up for males, to raise and stock native fish disposed to heavier weights. They hope that anglers will donate those big fish to be used for broodstock for a couple of years before being released into the fisheries where they were caught.
As a thank you, the agency will provide a replica mount of his catch to the fisherman.
"Being that it was late in the season when we started (last spring), getting four fish was good," said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries. "It allowed us to advertise those fish, which, in turn, allowed us to further advertise the program and show that it was successful in obtaining fish."
This year, Brooks is hopeful that more bait shops will assist as temporary holders for the bass. "Although the project does require some extra work on the part of our biologists and transportation truck drivers, we cannot envision an easier, more efficient system at this time," he said.
Getting state park marinas as participants is another objective this year, according to Ross. "That would create an excellent partnership, allowing them to promote the program and also have their marinas listed in our fish-holding sponsorship lists and advertisements," he said.
After the donated bass spawn, hatcheries will raise the offspring until they are 5 inches long. Then they will be stocked in fisheries around the state, including the lakes where their parents were caught.
"This won't mean that every largemouth bass spawning in Kentucky will have trophy bass genes," Brooks said. "That would be a long way off. But in the immediate future, it will mean the fish we're stocking to augment the natural spawning will be a higher quality of fish as far as growth potential."
Anglers can find out more and see a list of participating bait shops by going here.