With assistance from anglers, Arizona continued its efforts to improve one of its most important bass fisheries this spring by stocking 40,000 Florida-strain fingerlings. Release of these three-to-six-inch fish follows stocking of about one million fry since April 2014.
“Although the fingerlings cost around $70,000, their survival rate is exponentially higher than that of fry, which, along with the addition of artificial fish habitats, should help Arizona Game & Fish (AGF) continue its Roosevelt Lake revitalization efforts,” said Don McDowell, conservation director for Arizona B.A.S.S. Nation and host of the “Shake, Rattle & Troll” radio show.
While Florida donated the fry, with AGF paying only for shipping, angler donations helped the state pay for the fingerlings, McDowell added.
With a survival rate of 15 to 20 percent, the fingerlings should start to reach catchable size in 18 months.
“We hope that within the next 5 to 10 years anglers can enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake,” said Chris Cantrell, fisheries chief. “This effort should also have a positive economic impact on local communities.”
Anglers and fisheries managers hope that the stockings will help reverse an alarming decline in the bass population, noted during electrofishing surveys. In 2008, biologists caught 44 bass per hour, but only 11 during 2013. Additionally, bluegill and crappie numbers declined as well.
A definitive cause is uncertain, but gizzard shad first appeared in the 13,000-acre reservoir several years ago, and since then the population has exploded. Unlike threadfin, gizzard shad grow too large for many bass to eat, and biologists suspect they are crowding out other fish with both their numbers and biomass. The hope is that larger Florida bass will help take a bite out of the problem.