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Entries in trophy bass (33)

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.”

 

Friday
Jun132014

Oklahoma Stocks 1.8 Million Florida Bass

From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Florida Largemouth Bass Program had another great year of production for 2014. The program produced more than 1.8 million Florida bass, which allowed 31 lakes to be stocked. This year's production ranks as the second-best behind the record 2.2 million fish stocked just last year.

The goal of the Florida bass program is to produce trophy bass for Oklahoma anglers. To do so, genetically pure Florida bass are stocked into the state's lakes to influence the genetics of the native bass populations. Bass with Florida genes are able to grow larger more quickly than the native Northern largemouth bass. Except for one fish, every state-record bass since 1979 has been a Florida bass or a Florida hybrid bass.

Oklahoma's current state record largemouth bass was caught in Cedar Lake in March 2013 and weighed 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces. "Oklahoma is really right on the line of where you can expect Florida bass to be successful," said Cliff Sager, south central region senior biologist. Sager continues to say, "Lakes in the southern half of Oklahoma have shown much greater success in sustaining Florida-strain bass. There's a reason Cedar Lake (in southeastern Oklahoma) has broken the state record two years in a row."

Stocking sites are chosen by a committee of biologists based on many criteria. The committee considers the documented success in trophy bass production, as well as angler pressure. Also, lakes with better habitat for bass are more likely to be stocked than lakes where good bass habitat doesn't exist. Sager said growing trophy bass in a particular lake "is an eight- to 10-year investment." Therefore, the Wildlife Department concentrates on the waters that hold the most promise for producing trophy bass.

All of the Florida bass that the Department stocks are spawned at the Durant hatchery. Most of the fish are raised there, but some of the fry are distributed to state hatcheries in Byron and Holdenville for raising. The state's fourth hatchery at Medicine Park gets involved by helping to deliver FLMB fry and fingerlings to the various lakes for stocking.

This year's above-average production of FLMB can be credited to better spawning and improved handling techniques being used by hatchery technicians. Improved techniques have allowed record fish production the past two years, and Ike McKay, project leader at the Durant State Fish Hatchery, credits "the commitment and cooperation of everyone involved."

Sager said, "it truly is a coordinated effort to raise and stock that many fish over a short period of time and speaks to the dedication of the Wildlife Department to improve our fisheries resources."

To see a list of the 31 lakes stocked with FLMB this year go to 2014 Largemouth Bass Stocking Report.

Tuesday
Jun102014

Secrets for Growing Big Bass in Small Waters

Bruce Holt of G.Loomis with a 13-5 largemouth.

Owners of ponds and small lakes who want to grow bigger bass should step outside the box.

 “If you stock bluegill and bass at the traditional 10 to 1 ratio, in two years you will have an overcrowded pond,” said Barry Smith, in explaining how to grow double-digit bass. “You’ll have too many bass and not enough bluegill.”

Smith is owner of American Sport Fish Hatchery in Montgomery, Ala., and one of the nation’s foremost experts on growing big bass in small waters.

The 10 to 1 ratio for stocking, he explained, was developing during the 1940s, when the primary objective was to grow harvestable size bass (10 inches) and bluegill (6 inches).

“If you go from 10 to 1 to 100 to 1 or even 30 to 1, you will grow trophy bass,” Smith continued. “A bass that is 2 inches in June can be 2 pounds by November.

“People don’t realize the growth potential of bass. They are eating machines.”

And once a bass reaches a pound, he added, it can grow as much as 4 pounds a year.

“We have ponds where average growth is 2 pounds and in five years, a bass can weigh 10 to 12 pounds.”

No other variables, including genetics, are as important as having abundant forage. “You can’t express genetics if you don’t have enough food.”

Smith added that once a fishery managed for trophy bass is established, he recommends supplemental stockings of threadfin shad to boost growth even more.