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Entries in Florida bass (16)


Louisiana Tries New Stocking Strategy


Fewer but larger Florida-strain fingerlings are being stocked in Louisiana waters this year.

“Our idea on that is we think we’re going to get more bass into that natural population in the long run because they will survive so much better,” said Mike Wood, Inland Fisheries Director for the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF). “We think fewer large fingerlings (2 inches) will net a higher survival than will a larger number of small fingerlings (3/4 inch).”

The number stocked will depend on spawning success in the state’s four hatcheries, but 2.5 million or more fish could be placed in more than 30 water bodies, according to DWF.

One possible negative for this plan is that bass quickly turn cannibalistic as they grow. “They can’t help it, so they’re going to eat each other and we lose numbers the longer we hold them, and that’s the frustration of our hatchery folks,” Wood added. “Every day we hold them, we have fewer and fewer fish.

“But again, with a larger fingerling, I feel like I can get 10-to-1 better survival than with the very small ones.”

Toledo Bend and Bayou D’Arbonne rank at the top of the list for size of stocking, with 820,880 fingerlings requested for the former and 300,000 for the latter.


Oklahoma's Arbuckles Yields More Big Bass

Lone Grove anglers Doyle Idleman and Marco Vaca hold a five-bass stringer that totaled 42.71 pounds at Lake of the Arbuckles on March 23. (Photo courtesy Future Bass Team Trail)

Is Lake of the Arbuckles the Oklahoma version of Texas’ Lake Fork? It appears that way, courtesy of Florida-strain bass stocked there by the state.

Here’s the latest Arbuckles big-bass news from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

If not for the two that got away, tournament anglers Marco Vaca and Doyle Idleman might possibly have weighed-in a five-bass stringer of nearly 50 pounds. As it turned out, their 42.71-pound sack on March 23 at Lake of the Arbuckles was enough to win the Future Bass Team Trail's first 2014 divisional contest, Trail director Joe Copeland said.

The giant stringer also eclipsed Arbuckle's heavy-sack record: 42.04 pounds caught by former Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson in January 2013.

For the past several years, Lake of the Arbuckles in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been giving up lunker largemouth bass. Vaca and Idleman's largest fish bent the scale at 10.93 pounds, but even that did not win the biggest-bass honor at the tournament! The second-place team of Terry Alsup and Brad Hill had the day's big bass at 11.69 pounds, with a five-fish stringer totaling 34.16 pounds.

Six bass at the tournament weigh-in went more than 10 pounds. And only 14 boats were entered.

"I've been fishing tournaments for 30 years in Oklahoma, and I've never seen anything like it," Copeland said of the south-central Oklahoma lake. "With what's coming out of it now, there's no doubt a state record is in there."

Vaca, 33, said he did not begin bass fishing until 2009. Still, he said he's reeled in "a bunch of 10-pounders" during his brief fishing career. "That lake there has been really good to me," the Lone Grove angler said.

Vaca said the water temperature at Arbuckle was 49 degrees, and most of his team's bass were caught in the morning. The two biggest fish were in the live well within 45 minutes after the tournament started. He said they were hitting crankbaits and Alabama rigs in about 15 to 20 feet of water.

Mid-March has proved to be a great time to catch big bass in Oklahoma, as the fish are laden with eggs and preparing to spawn in the next few weeks. The last two state record largemouth bass were caught in March 2013 and March 2012.

Copeland said it's just nature. "As the fish prepare to spawn, they are going to eat everything and fatten up. And that Alabama rig, they just can't resist it," he said.

With few exceptions, Oklahoma's biggest bass are being caught in southern Oklahoma waters, where the Wildlife Department has concentrated its efforts to grow trophy bass through its Florida bass stocking program.

In the right habitat conditions, Florida bass have proved to grow larger faster than the native northern largemouth bass that is prevalent in the state. But Florida bass survival has proved problematic north of Interstate 40, mainly because of colder winter conditions compared with what is seen in southern Oklahoma.

Three teams at the March 23 Arbuckles tournament weighed in more than 30 pounds of fish. The event's third-place team of Bill Chapman and Johnny Owens brought in five bass totaling 32 pounds.

Vaca tipped his hat to the other teams for their remarkable efforts. "If I had 30 pounds of fish in the livewell, I would not think I was going to get beat!" But on Lake of the Arbuckles, recent bass tournaments have proved to be real heavyweight bouts.

The lake near Sulphur is part of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The Wildlife Department has periodically stocked the lake with Florida bass fingerlings for many years.

Lake of the Arbuckles has a daily limit of six largemouth or smallmouth bass combined, and all largemouth and smallmouth bass from 13 to 16 inches long must be returned to the water immediately. 


Florida Angler Catches, Releases Three TrophyCatch Bass

How would you like to catch a 14-, a 13-, and and an 11-pound bass in one month? That's just what Joseph "Brooks" Morrell did recently on Florida's Lake Kingsley in Clay County.

Here's the story about the TrophyCatch fish from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):

These included the second and third Hall of Fame entries for the program’s second season (Oct. 1, 2013 to Sep. 30, 2014). The bass weighed 13 pounds, 12 ounces,  and 14 pounds, 9 ounces, and were caught March 1 and 8, respectively.

The third bass he caught on March 9 weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces.

All three of his trophy bass were caught sight-fishing with a soft-plastic Berkley crawfish bait.

On March 1, he located the 13-pounder on a bed guarded by a male. After working the male off the bed, he landed her using the artificial crawfish bait and called the FWC. Conservation officers Jason Bryant and Christiane Larosa were able to help measure the bass and even photographed its successful release, which allowed it to return to the bed.

A week later, Morrell was back on Kingsley Lake and landed the 14-pounder. It was 27.75 inches long with a 21-inch girth. Various formulas used for estimating bass weights (see project a bass with those dimensions would be between 13.5 and 16.2 pounds, further substantiating the catch. This is now the biggest bass of TrophyCatch season two, and we are right in the middle of peak fishing time for big bass – so the challenge is on.

“Fishing has been awesome this spring,” Morrell said. “I’m so glad that I could get these documented and then release the females alive right back on their beds. Next weekend, on March 15, I’m putting on a ‘Relay for Life’ fishing tournament on Lake Santa Fe to support the fight against cancer (see but will be back fishing myself as soon as possible.”

TrophyCatch is the FWC’s premier angler-recognition program that encourages anglers who catch largemouth bass over 8 pounds to photo-document them on a scale showing the entire fish and its weight. Once documented, a fish must be live-released in the same water system from which it was caught.

In return for documenting and releasing these big female bass that typically are at least 8 years old and relatively rare, the FWC’s partners provide valuable rewards. FWC posts the images on the website and provide a full-color certificate and club decal. Corporate partners provide additional incentives including the following:

  • Lunker Club (8-9.9 pounds): $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting goods, and a club T-shirt from Bass King Clothing.
  • Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds): $150 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting goods, and a long-sleeve club shirt from Bass King Clothing.
  • Hall of Fame (13 pounds or heavier): Free fiberglass replica from New Wave Taxidermy ($500 value), $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting goods, and a duffle bag and custom hoody, with other goodies, from Bass King Clothing.
  • The biggest bass of the year also receives a TrophyCatch championship ring from the American Outdoors Fund, and if the winning bass is from one of the major lakes in Osceola County, Experience Kissimmee adds a $10,000 check.

However, for many anglers more than the value of the rewards or the bragging rights associated with the program, the biggest thrill is releasing their catch to fight another day and knowing the information provided about the catch helps the FWC ensure trophy bass for future generations. Information reported to TrophyCatch is used by the FWC to determine what management programs such as habitat enhancement, aquatic plant management, fish stocking or regulations are most effective. Moreover, the information is very valuable for promoting Florida bass fishing, which generates significant economic benefits to local communities and encourages additional angling –including getting more youth involved.

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Gizzard Shad Major Concern for Arizona Bass Fishery

Gizzard shad photo from Real Animals Life

With gizzard shad now at the top of the list of  concerns for Roosevelt Lake, fisheries chief Chris Cantrell emphasized that Arizona Game and Fish is dedicated to sustaining and enhancing that besieged bass water.

“The lake has gone through some changes in the past five years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of confounding issues, including Largemouth Bass Virus, golden alga, and now gizzard shad. And we have to deal with drawdowns during the post-spawn for power and water.”

During that time, bass catch rates have risen, but weights have declined. Additionally, crappie catch rates during gill-net sampling have plunged 100 percent, with weights down as well.

And maybe not so coincidentally, gizzard shad, which showed up without explanation in 2007, made up nearly 28 percent of the catch during electrofishing surveys in 2011. Most disturbingly, they quickly grew from bite-size for bass to more than 8 inches in length, with the bulk of sampled fish 13 inches or more.

As a consequence, the shad are no longer vulnerable, and thus are a negative for the Salt River reservoir.

“The effects of gizzard shad in Roosevelt Lake, though not fully understood, are now becoming evident,” Cantrell said.

“Gizzard shad are documented as having an impact on sportfisheries back east through competition with other forage and game species at the larval stage and in reduction as a food resource for largemouth bass as they soon outgrow largemouth bass mouth gapes.”

The big question now is whether the shad are reproducing.

“Maybe this is just a size class moving through the system,” the fisheries chief said. “But we assume they are (reproducing). This year, we’ve been hearing about a huge population of threadfin shad. There could be gizzard shad in there too.”

While some anglers would like to see aggressive gill-netting to reduce the gizzard shad population, Cantrell said that probably is not a practical option. “We don’t think that would be effective,” he said. “And it would have to be long-term, and we don’t have the resources for that. We will euthanize the shad that we catch (during sampling), but that’s just a drop in the bucket.”

So for now at least, the agency will continue to analyze the gizzard shad’s impact, both at Roosevelt and downstream in Apache, where they’ve now been documented as well.

But that’s not to say it won’t work to improve sport fishing in Roosevelt and other waters.

“We’re looking at habitat,” the fisheries chief said. “We’ve wanted to put in habitat anyway, and research shows less drastic declines with more habitat. We’ve dedicated a position to full-time habitat work, with Roosevelt up front.”

Additionally, Arizona is asking Texas Parks and Wildlife to assist in examining bass genetics in 10 state waters stocked with Florida-strain bass during the 1970s and early 1980s.

“We were getting big bass from that into the 90s,” Cantrell said. “We want to see if the genetics are still viable. If not, we’re going to work with local partners to purchase and stock more Florida bass.”

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


Oklahoma Boosts Trophy Potential for Bass Anglers


Benny Williams Jr. caught this 14-pound, 12.3-ounce bass in Oklahoma's Cedar Lake. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife

Following on the heels of a banner year in 2012, a record-setting 2.22 million Florida-strain largemouth were stocked into state waters by the Fisheries Division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation this past spring.

“We had a good situation this year by having so many fish,” said Cliff Sager, a senior biologist. “Being able to stock 44 lakes, to give so many lakes a shot in the arm with the Florida genetics, that just increased the potential for trophy bass production for years to come.”

About 1 million are stocked during an average year, while 1.74 million were released into 27 Oklahoma fisheries during 2012.

 The state began stocking Florida bass during the 1970s, with the goal of introducing the strain's genetics into local populations. Florida bass grow larger than northern, but they also are not as tolerant of cooler temperatures. Hybrids also grow larger and often exhibit enhanced growth for a generation or two.

"Oklahoma is really right on the line of where you can expect Florida bass to be successful," Sager said.

Lakes in the southern half of Oklahoma have shown much greater success in sustaining Florida-strain bass, he added. "There's a reason Cedar Lake (in southeastern Oklahoma) has broken the state record the past two years."

Stocking sites are chosen by a committee of biologists and technicians based on several criteria, including documented success in trophy bass production and angler pressure. Also, lakes with better habitat for bass are more likely to be stocked.

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