Between Jan. 1 and March 23 of last year, anglers entered 54 Lunker Club (8-9.9 pounds), 31 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) and 1 Hall of Fame bass of more than 13 pounds in the TrophyCatch program. By contrast, during the same period this year, anglers registered 220 Lunker Club, 89 Trophy Club and 3 Hall of Fame bass.
“Part of that three-fold increase was due to simplified rules and more anglers being aware. Nevertheless, it is clear that Florida is producing and recycling vast numbers or trophy bass,” said Bob Wattendorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Additionally in March, a Bassmaster Elite Tournament on the St. Johns River yieded some impressive results, as 11 of the top 12 finishers filled their five-bag limit all four days. Chris Lane won with a four-day total of 90.13 pounds.
More from FWC:
TrophyCatch rewards anglers for participating in citizen-science, by catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. Besides the immediate gratification of releasing these older bass to fight another day, anglers provide valuable information about the number and distribution of these trophy bass and what it takes to sustain a trophy fishery.
Biologists compare the findings to existing conservation programs such as habitat restoration efforts, aquatic vegetation management strategies, bass stocking histories and various regulation management approaches to determine what works best.
So you never know when you may find a lunker on the end of your line. To be prepared, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com now, register, and check out the rules and prizing.
Just registering makes you eligible for a random drawing in October for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury and equipped with a Power-Pole. However, every time you have a TrophyCatch bass verified, your name is entered 10 more times. Moreover, every verified bass earns you not only bragging rights on the Web but also a customized certificate, decal and club shirt, plus at least a total of $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and/or Rapala.
Bigger fish earn greater rewards: Anglers who have 13-pound plus Hall of Fame entries also get a $500 fiberglass replica of their catch.
All three Hall of Fame entries from this winter (one was caught in the fall by Van Soles on Lake Kissimmee) came from semi-private Lake Kingsley in Clay County. Len Andrews, 74, from Richmond, Va., in a recent two-week period, caught and released 12 Florida largemouth bass over 10 pounds, capped by a TrophyCatch Hall of Fame entry that was verified as 13 pounds, 12 ounces. Andrews also became the first “Triple Crown” winner by documenting a Lunker Club, Trophy Club and Hall-of-Fame bass. All of the hundreds of bass he’s caught on Lake Kingsley have been with a Zoom 6-inch lizard.
Fellow Lake Kingsley angler Joseph “Brooks” Morrell recently reported three huge bass that he caught, documented, released and entered into TrophyCatch. These included the second and third Hall of Fame entries this season (Oct. 1, 2013, to Sep. 30, 2014). These two bass weighed 13 pounds, 12 ounces, and 14 pounds, 9 ounces and were caught March 1 and 8, respectively. The third bass Morrell caught, on March 9, weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces. All of his catches were enticed to take an artificial crawfish bait. His 14 pounder is the current season leader. If it holds up, he will earn the TrophyCatch Championship ring in October, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund.
However, there is still a lot of fishing to be done before then, so get out there and see what you can catch.
The FWC scheduled the first of four license-free recreational fishing days on the first full weekend in April each year (April 5-6, 2014), because it coincides with a productive freshwater fishing period, when the weather is usually pleasant. Many of Florida’s recreational sport fishes, inlcuding black bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, move into shallow waters to spawn during spring, making them more available for anglers to catch.
During license-free freshwater fishing weekends (the first weekend in April and the second weekend in June) no recreational fishing license is required. However, all other bag limit and season, gear and size restrictions apply.
To further encourage recreational fishing, the FWC will conduct a special contest during April to collect photos of anglers. All you have to do is post a photo of your family fishing in Florida’s fresh waters on Twitter or Instagram with #FLfish (or you can use #FWC-FamilyFishing). In return for your efforts, the FWC will enter you into a drawing for one of six surprise packages, each including a $50 gift card from Bass Pro Shops, thanks to TrophyCatch, a Glen Lau video library on DVD and assorted fishing lures, hooks, line and goodies to make your next trip even more productive.
Submitted photos must be your own. Editing software must not be used, and the photo cannot include inappropriate content. Photos should be taken during April while freshwater fishing in Florida and include multiple anglers enjoying their day together on the water. The FWC may subsequently use the photos for educational or outreach purposes.