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Entries in trophy bass (35)

Wednesday
Sep102014

Can Nutritional Boost Help Big Bass Grow Even Bigger?

TPWD photo

The majority of bass produced by the Toyota ShareLunker program goes to stocking Texas public reservoirs for anglers to catch. Since the program began in 1986, that translates into more than one million fingerlings spawned in hatcheries from bass weighing 13 pounds or more and distributed into 62 reservoirs, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW).

Since 2001, though, some have gone into both public and private waters solely to evaluate the benefits of crossing pure Florida ShareLunkers with male bass descended from previous ShareLunkers.

The most recent private stocking in Operation World Record (OWR) occurred this summer on a Webb County ranch owned by Gary Schwarz, best known for growing big whitetail deer. TPW provided 7,404 ShareLunker offspring for the recently renovated 60-acre lake to see if he can attain similarly impressive results with largemouth bass.

To provide the bass with optimum forage, Schwarz is not content with having just bluegill, minnows, and shad. He also will flush prawns, shrimp-like crustaceans, into the lake from surrounding brood ponds. The shellfish can grow as large as 12 inches and should provide a nutritional boost for the fast-growing future ShareLunkers.

Owners of these private “contract” lakes agree not to fish for the bass for a stipulated period, and TPW may remove them as needed.

The Webb County stocking was facilitated by 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner Alton Jones, who knows Schwarz, according to Allen Forshage, director of the Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

These likely will be the last OWR offspring stocked in a private lake, as previous research indicates that these fish do grow faster and bigger than normal Florida-strain bass. Four years after they were stocked in other waters, they had an average weight of about 7 ounces more than resident bass of equivalent age, according to biologist Michael Baird.

“Additionally, the largest bass collected were almost always Lunker offspring, while the smallest were resident offspring,” he said.

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

Monday
Sep082014

Anglers Register More Than 1,000 Bass in Florida's TrophyCatch

Mark Lemieux has caught at least 17 TrophyCatch bass since January, all of from an Ocklawaha area lake. This one weighed 11-9. FWC photo

More than 1,000 largemouth bass exceeding 8 pounds have been caught, documented, and released in Florida in less than two years. Want to know where and see photos? Simply go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and select the “Gallery of Catches” or you can pick “Search Catches” to narrow your results.

“TrophyCatch has been exceptionally well-received by anglers, corporate partners, nonprofits and conservation agencies around the country that see this as an innovative win-win program,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

TrophyCatch is the result of a partnership effort between the FWC, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. and corporate partners. It is an incentive-based conservation program designed for anglers who catch and release largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds, in Florida. Program goals are as follows:

  • Collect valid information through citizen-science about trophy bass to help the FWC enhance, conserve and promote trophy bass fishing.
  • Encourage catch-and-release of the biggest, oldest, most valuable bass.
  • Excite anglers about Florida freshwater fishing, encouraging them to purchase licenses and to fish more, resulting in benefits to anglers, fishing-related businesses, local communities and the fisheries by having more support and funding for conservation.
  • Share information about fishing opportunities and destinations to make fishing more enjoyable.

Anglers are encouraged to follow catch-and-release guidelines for these big bass and to document the catch through a photograph of the entire bass on a scale with the weight clearly legible. By registering at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, anglers are eligible for an annual drawing for a Phoenix Bass Boat, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. Then, when they follow the rules to document legally caught bass heavier than 8 pounds and release them alive in the same water system where caught, they earn  prizes (see website for detailed rules and prize information).

Wednesday
Aug272014

Future Bright for Trophy Bass in Florida, Texas

The best is yet to come for anglers who pursue big bass in Florida and Texas. Even though they have decidedly different approaches, each sponsors a program that optimizes opportunities provided by the Florida strain of largemouth.

Of course, it’s only logical that the two have differing strategies, since one manages for non-native fish in manmade impoundments, while the other focuses on native fish in natural lakes. As a consequence, Texas constantly researches methods for growing more and ever larger bass, while Florida has set up a system that both helps anglers find the state’s biggest fish and encourages catch-and-release.

Implemented just two years ago, the Sunshine State’s TrophyCatch still is in its “infancy stages,” according to Bill Pouder, a freshwater fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). It was borne out of the state’s Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan, with the intent of ensuring “Florida is the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.”

Word of mouth, Pouder added, has helped considerably in motivating fishermen to report catches of 8 pounds and larger. “If I’m an angler who catches an 8-pound bass and all I have to do is provide a photo and measurements in exchange for $100 in gift cards and prizes, then I’d be very encouraged to do it,” he said.

Statistics certainly bear out that assessment, too. From Oct. 1, 2012, through September 2013, fishermen entered 206 fish in TrophyCatch. But 679 bass were logged in during the eight months that followed. Of those 885 fish, 244 weighed between 10 and 12.99 pounds and 5 weighed 13 pounds or more.

As possibly the biggest surprise of the program thus far, three of those latter fish, including the largest at 14-9, came from Kingsley Lake, a semi-private fishery in Clay County. That discovery goes to the heart of how TrophyCatch will enhance opportunities for Florida anglers to catch lunkers: It tells them where they are.

Not so surprising is that Lake Istokpoga tops the list of public waters, followed by Okeechobee, Toho, Kissimmee, and St. Johns River. But 235, or more than 25 percent, of those fish have been caught in small, unnamed waters, including private ponds, golf course ponds, retention ponds, and undisclosed public lakes.

“Those types of waters aren’t typically managed,” Pouder said. “But that suggests we might look into that for the future.”

Also worthy of note is that TrophyCatch has given lie to the notion that anglers must use shiners to catch big bass in Florida. More 60 percent of entries were caught on artificials.

More of that kind of helpful information will be available to anglers soon, as FWC develops a more in-depth website for TrophyCatch, which will allow each entrant to have his or her own page.

In Texas, meanwhile, managers continue to look for new ways to improve the state’s trophy bass fisheries through ShareLunker, a program built around stocking Florida strain largemouths. Before the Lonestar State introduced the larger variety of black bass, its state record of 13.5 remained unchallenged for 37 years. Since stocking began in the 1970s, the record has been broken six times, and three since ShareLunker began in 1986.

Current Texas record is 18.2, larger even than the biggest bass documented in Florida at 17.27.

Courtesy of ShareLunker, Florida bass now swim in 62 Texas impoundments. They are spawned in hatcheries from the ShareLunker entries of 13 pounds or more that Texas fishermen donate to the program.Incredibly, 51 percent of ShareLunker entries are pure Florida bass, with the rest being hybrids. Yet sampling reveals that Florida bass typically make up only about 7 percent of a fishery’s bass population.

“A real value of the program has been that it has convinced anglers that they do not have to kill their catch to get a trophy,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

In exchange for donating their fish, anglers are given replica mounts.

Right now, focus is on DNA and how tracking it might help produce a fish that could rival the world record of 22-4. While breeding ShareLunker entries to male ShareLunker offspring, biologists have developed a technique to identify both parents in future trophy bass.

Tagging already has revealed that sometimes entries are caught more than once. In fact, one was caught three times.

“I was a pessimist when we first started this program,” Forshage said. “We had no idea that one day we’d have 62 lakes producing these lunker fish.”

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

Friday
Aug082014

Stocking Could Lead to Future Trophy Fishery in Arizona

Arizona Game and Fish photo

Could Arizona’s Roosevelt Lake be another Lake of the Arbuckles in the making? Bass anglers hope so.

The latter is a southern Oklahoma reservoir that has been stocked periodically with Florida-strain bass for many years and now seems to be teeming with big fish. For example, six double-digit bass were brought in by a 14-boat tournament in March, with the winning limit of five weighing an impressive 42.71 pounds.

Over in Arizona, fisheries managers stocked nearly 500,000 Florida-strain fingerlings in Roosevelt during April. A recent explosion of gizzard shad provided impetus for the move, and bolsters even more the likelihood that the Salt River impoundment will yield hefty bass in a few years. A milder climate and longer growing season than in Oklahoma will help as well.

The 13,500-acre impoundment had not received an infusion of Florida largemouths since the 1980s. And, according to Arizona Game and Fish, surveys since 2011 revealed “an 80 percent reduction in largemouth bass catch rates.”

Fisheries chief Chris Cantrell added, “We hope that within the next 5 to 10 years anglers and enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake.”

In Oklahoma, meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife Conservation has been working aggressively to create trophy fisheries, introducing Florida bass into more than 40 impoundments. Thus far, 2,350-acre Arbuckles has provided the most impressive results, but it is not the only success story.

“Oklahoma is really right on the line where you can expect Florida bass to be successful,” said biologist Cliff Sager, pointing out that fisheries in the southern half of the state have shown the best potential.

“There’s a reason Cedar Lake (southeastern Oklahoma) has broken the state record twice.”

In March of 2012, Benny Williams Jr. caught a 14-pound, 12.3-ounce lunker in the 86-acre lake to break the 13-year-old state record. A year later, Dale Miller beat that with a Cedar Lake giant weighing 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces.

Also in 2013, Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson brought in a five-fish limit of 42 pounds at Arbuckles.

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

Monday
Jun232014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes for Bass Limits

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) originally intended to close its survey regarding proposed changes in bass regulations on June 30. But it has decided to keep it up through the deliberation process and take a “data snippet” on June 30. Go here to participate in the survey.

The first change in the state’s bass length limits in 20 years would keep the creel limit at five, but allow just one of 16 inches or longer. In other words, anglers could keep smaller fish for the table.

At present, different parts of the state have 12- and 14-inch minimum length limits.

Some anglers might think that these regulations are intended to change the size structure by removing smaller bass, which would boost growth of remaining fish to trophy size. But that is not the case.

Actually, biologists want anglers to know that it’s all right to keep smaller bass, since spawning and recruitment aren’t issues for healthy fisheries in Florida.

Current minimum length limits don’t convey that message. Rather, they seem to suggest that smaller fish must be protected, but it’s okay to keep larger bass.

Yes, the proposed changes will protect larger fish and probably improve the odds for anglers to change quality and trophy bass. But that likely will occur because those fish are being “recycled” through catch and release.

“We are also continuing to pursue our TrophyCatch program and will be rolling out a new website in the near future,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf.

 “It is a great way of incentivizing anglers to release bass heavier than eight pounds, without passing stricter laws. Meanwhile, it provides biologists valuable data for research and marketing, and engages anglers in both citizen-science and active resource stewardship.”