Responding to anglers' desires for more opportunity to catch big bass in state, Kentucky has initiated the Trophy Bass Propagation Program.
But while its neighbor to the south, Tennessee, seems to have found success by introducing Florida-strain bass into its lakes, Kentucky is not going that route. Over the years, fisheries biologists have learned that just a few miles north or south can make the difference between whether introduced Florida bass thrive or just barely survive.
"If we had the same kind of year-round temperatures as Florida, then we'd we would be stocking Florida-strain bass," said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief for the Kentucky Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources (DWF).
Instead, DWF intends to use offspring of trophy native bass donated by anglers who catch them, with 8pounds the minimum for females and 6 pounds for males.
"I wanted to figure out how we could do a better job of propagating larger bass in Kentucky," Brooks added. "So this kind of program just makes sense. People have been breeding animals forever to optimize the size of the animal, so why not do this with largemouth bass?"
Anglers who wish to help grow bigger bass in Kentucky can take their fish to participating bait shops from Oct. 1 to May 31, when weather typically is mild enough to reduce stress. Employees at those shops will hold the fish in aerated tanks until they can be picked up and taken to a hatchery by DWF staff.
"We don't want anglers to leave their trophy bass in a livewell or keep it in a fish basket on the bank for an extended period of time because we don't want the fish to succumb to stress," Brooks explained. "We're asking people to handle these fish with kid gloves and bring them to a participating bait shop as soon as possible."
After the bass spawn, hatcheries will raise the fish 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," the fisheries chief said. "That would be a long way off. But n 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 plugging in "Trophy Bass Propagation Program" in the search window on the DWF website.