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Entries in trophy bass (51)

Sunday
Apr242016

Wagamons Pond Yields Second Delaware Record Bass

With little Wagamons Pond yielding two Delaware record largemouth bass in less than four years, it's logical to wonder if the same fish was caught twice. After all, double-digit bass are a rarity in general that far north, and, in a 41-acre impoundment, they would seem even more so.

But the11.10 (11 pounds, 1.6 ounces) bass that A.J Klein caught on Feb. 20 just might be one of a number of trophy bass that thrive in that unique fishery, along with the 10-pound, 10-ounce largemouth that James Hitchens caught and released in 2012. That's because the reservoir on the Broadkill River has both hydrilla and an unusually rich forage base, with a fish ladder providing entry for both alewives and blueback herring.

At the very least, though, that 11-pounder once again is swimming in Wagamons because Klein released it after quickly weighing and measuring it and getting it certified by a Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control official.

"It swam away slow at first because it was in shallow water," said the angler from New Castle. "But once it got to deep water, it jetted off. It was healthy, and we were so happy. We were relieved because that was the one thing we were really concerned about."

Klein caught the fish just as he and friend Joe Lattis were about to leave the pond because the bite was slow. As he slow rolled a Strike King Bleeding Shad spinnerbait near the bottom, he felt a subtle hit.

"I set the hook and thought I was snagged," he said. "Two seconds later, my line dropped, and I had a crazy fight on my hands."

Finally, Lattis netted the fish for him. "Once the bass was in the boat, we both just sat there and looked at each other," the angler said. "We didn't expect the bass to be that big."

Klein used 14-pound Berkley monofilament, a Daiwa Megaforce rod, and an Abu Garcia Hank Parker baitcaster to catch the Delaware record largemouth. Hitchens caught the previous record on a live shiner.

Monday
Apr182016

Black Bass Management Plan Betters Florida Fisheries

Since the Florida Black Bass Management plan was approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2011,  fisheries have benefited in four targeted areas.

In "habitat management,"  many bass anglers will be pleased with a new hydrilla policy. It allows hydrilla to be managed on a waterbody-specific basis, "using a risk-based approach rather than the previous mandate to reduce hydrilla to the lowest level possible," said Matt Phillips from the Invasive Plant Management Section of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Under "new opportunities," meanwhile, what fisheries managers hope will be a new trophy fishery is nearing completion, adjacent to the world-renowned Farm 13/Stick Marsh in northwest Indian River County. By the time the reservoir fills at Fellsmere Water Management Area, more than one million fingerling-sized bass will have been stocked, according to FWC's Bob Wattendorf.

Additionally, the bottom has been sculpted to create drop offs, islands, and other structure, and beneficial aquatic plants have been added, along with boat launch facilities.

For "fish management," FWC's Florida's Bass Conservation Center has produced nearly 19 million fish for stocking in more than 250 public water bodies during the past five seasons. Concurrent with the program, research continues into how to increase survival for stocked fish.

Finally, a two-year process of integrating public attitudes and desires with fish population studies led to a review of bass regulations, and resulted in simplification of statewide regulations, as FWC manages harvest to produce more trophy bass. Also under "human dimensions," the TrophyCatch program continues to grow in popularity as it enters its fourth year.

"By providing anglers with sponsored incentives, a website gallery of catches and information on proper handling of these prized fish, TrophyCatch has documented release of more than 3,000 trophy bass back into Florida waters," said spokesman Bob Wattendorf. "The program is helping to conserve these valuable fish and to promote Florida as the 'Bass Fishing Capital of the World.'"

Tuesday
Mar222016

Tiger Bass Stocked to Improve Smith Mountain Lake Fishery

Robert Dean Wood wants to engineer a better bass fishery at Smith Mountain Lake. Elite Series angler John Crews wants to help. And the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has approved the first step, privately funded stocking of a northern/Florida hybrid known as the F-1 Tiger bass.

 “Smith Mountain Lake is my lake. That’s why I’m doing this,” said Wood, a long-time tournament angler. “I want a bigger and better bass fishery for future generations.”

In three to five years, Wood explained, he hopes to see 50 out of 100 boats in a tournament weigh in a 5-pound bass. “And my dream is to have B.A.S.S. here for another major event.” (Elite Series anglers last competed there in 2010 Blue Ridge Brawl.)

Virginia pro Crews added, “This could be a really good deal for Virginia in general, as well as Smith Mountain Lake. I know that the Elite Series anglers loved the lake, and it would be great to bring them back.

“I’ve seen that phenomenon before,” he said. “You get the right genetics in the water, and a fishery takes off. And this lake reminds me of some out west that grow big bass. And Biwa in Japan is similar, with deep, clear water.”

Private stocking of a public fishery is rare. “But it has been done before, in places like the Rappahannock (River),” said VDGIF biologist Dan Wilson

“This is not a matter of identifying a need,” he continued. “But if they are supplying the fish, this benefits both of us. We can study what happens and see if it works in our larger reservoirs.”

The state already has tried the F-1 Tiger in three small lakes, with mixed results. In one, the biologist said, “They didn’t show up.” In another, which had been recently drained and had few resident fish, they “did okay.” While in the third, which had good forage but low numbers and recruitment, they performed “very well.”

By contrast, 20,000-acre Smith Mountain already boasts good density of bass with acceptable growth, even though it is clear and deep with steep shorelines and little shallow cover. “There’s not a recruitment problem,” Wilson said. “It’s a pretty average lake.”

Smith Mountain also has plenty of forage, including threadfin shad, alewives, and blueback herring. “Bass can feed on bluegill and crawfish too,” Wood said. “We felt that all of this forage would support a stocking.”

So if the lake already has an adequate bass population and limited shallow habitat for spawning, why do a supplemental stocking of F-1 Tiger bass? Also, most lakes in Virginia have a 50/50 mix of northern/Florida genes, Wilson revealed.

“In some, it’s 60/40 and in others it’s 40/60. And who knows how it happened?” the biologist said. “Largemouth bass are not native to Virginia and we don’t have records.”

Briery Creek, which has produced big fish and is widely believed to have been stocked with pure strain Florida bass during the 1980s, really is no different than the rest.

 “We stocked pure northern and what we thought were pure Florida in there,” Wilson said. “But when we started checking progeny, we found that didn’t that we didn’t go far enough south to get those Florida bass.”

The F-1 Tiger hybrid, however, is bred especially for fast growth and aggressiveness by American Sport Fish Hatchery in Montgomery, Ala. (See related sidebar.) Wood and Crews hope that mixing in those genes could be just the jump start that Smith Mountain needs to produce larger bass and heavier limits.

“Of course, all 20,000 won’t survive. What we’re looking for is to get the number of fish per acre up and start a better strain of bass,” Wood said. “And Don Keller (at AFS) said that the fish would be fine with the colder temperatures up here.”

Before deciding to do it himself, the Virginia angler checked to see if VDGIF would supplement the largemouth population in Smith Mountain. “Virginia does stock stripers,” he said. “But because bass spawn in there, it wasn’t going to stock them. To my knowledge, no one has ever stocked bass in there.”

The first planting of two-inch fingerlings occurred in May 2015, with follow-ups planned for 2016 and 2017. Cost for each shipment is $10,600, and Wood is hoping that anglers will donate to the cause.

“But even if they don’t, I’ll buy it out of pocket if I have to,” he said

The fingerlings won’t be tagged, but VDGIF will help with the stocking, as well as conduct electrofishing surveys to assess success. It also will take fin clips of captured fish for genetic identification by Auburn University.

“Dan and I agree that habitat in Smith Mountain is not as conducive (to growing big bass) as Chickamauga (Tennessee impoundment stocked with Florida bass),” Wood said. “But we’ll never know whether it will work if we don’t try.”

Additionally, stocking is just the first step in making the Virginia impoundment a better bass fishery, he added.

“The stocking will give us a reason to start talking to people who live on the lake and manage it about getting some vegetation for the fish,” he said.

“We’re hoping that the power company (American Electric Power) will allow some grasses, maybe something like willow grass,” Crews said. “The whole key is not to do anything that would disturb power plant operation or the home owners.

“I’m going to spread the word to donate money for the stocking and to support shallow water cover. This lake is in my backyard, and I take a lot of pride in it,” he said. “I want it to be as good as it can be.”

F-1 Tiger Bass

The F-1 Tiger bass is the offspring of a special strain of northern bass and a pure strain of Florida bass. American Sport Fish is the only hatchery licensed to produce and sell this hybrid.

“Our Florida strain largemouth bass brooders are from proven trophy lines and our northern largemouth bass have been selected for 15 generations for their aggressive feeding behavior,” said AFS’s Don Keller.

Fed a diet of goldfish, shad, and tilapia, the brood stock is kept in prime condition for spring spawning.

"Our Tiger bass have already gained weights of 15 pounds in eight years,” he added. “We expect them to break state records in the next several years.”

Sunday
Mar202016

Bass Catching Wisdom From 'The Way It Was Back Then'

Robert Earl Woodard is an internet sensation right now because of a video showing him catching a 16-pound largemouth bass by hand. You can check it out here.

But he's also an accomplished angler with rod and reel. In his book, The Way It Was Back Then, he shares what he's learned over the years in "Bass Fishing Tips and Secrets From Forty Years of Catching Big Bass." He also sprinkled in some more bass-catching wisdom in other places in this entertaining and nostalgic book that celebrates a time when hard work and personal responsibility were a way of life and childhood was adventurous instead of sedentary.

Here's a little of his bass fishing wisdom, based on his experiences in Alabama:

"In general, when the buds are full on the trees, but before the leaves bloom out full in the spring, is always a great time to fish. Also, another great time to go fishing is after five consecutive days of no rain and, with the temperature above 95 degrees in the middle of June, preferably during the second or third week. Typically after July 1, in the heat of the summery, finding and catching big bass becomes more difficult."

 Also, he says, ". . . the third day after the first cool nights in August or early September have been some of my best fishing times."

Thursday
Jan072016

Florida'sTrophyCatch Numbers for Big Bass Continue to Grow

"TrophyCatch Season 3 ended on a very positive note, and Season 4 is off to an even better start, with peak fishing time right around the corner," according to the Florida Fish and Widllife Conservation Commission (FWC).

 TrophyCatch is the citizen-science program that allows FWC to collect data on largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. In return, corporate partners reward anglers for properly documenting the catch with a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with the weight showing, and releasing it.

During Season 3, the FWC verified 1,744 TrophyCatch bass, with more than 70 percent of the submissions being approved. The previous season, 993 bass heavier than 8 pounds were verified, which was about 60 percent of submissions. The first season, 185 were verified, which was less than 40 percent of submissions.

“This reflects an increasing awareness by anglers of the TrophyCatch program and how to document their catches, but also shows how prolific the trophy bass fishery is in Florida,” said KP Clements, director of TrophyCatch.

By going to TrophyCatchFlorida.com anglers can register, submit fish, and examine other catches from around the state. Just registering makes you eligible to win a $40,000 boat package. Ed Prather was the lucky winner of the third Phoenix Bass Boat given away by TrophyCatch. The boats are powered by Mercury and equipped with a PowerPole shallow-water anchoring. To be eligible for the random drawing at the end of Season 4, simply ensure you are registered and your information is up-to-date.

Data has shown FWC biologists that while there are hot lakes, like Kingsley Lake in Clay County (which has limited access to the military and homeowners), numerous catches come from small urban or rural ponds or even golf course ponds. Large popular public lakes like Istokpoga, Tohopekaliga, Okeechobee and Kissimmee provide equal opportunity for all anglers and are popular tourist destinations.

At TrophyCatchFlorida.com you can search for catches by county or water body to determine how your favorite area is doing or where to try next.

 Last season about 50 TrophyCatch bass were verified in December, which doubled to more than 100 in January, then increased to about 150 in February and peaked in March with almost 400 approved submissions. Trophy bass catches then declined through November before picking up again, in a typical annual cycle. Of course, this is keyed to the bass’ spawning cycle and anglers’ enthusiasm for finding bass during early spring.

March panned out very well for the 15 Hall of Fame winners from Season 3, who were honored in December at an event at Bass Pro Shops, Orlando. Those anglers caught, documented and released 17 bass over 13 pounds, five of which were caught in March. This included Seth Chapman, who earned the TrophyCatch championship ring, donated by the American Outdoors Fund, for a 15-pound, 11-ounce bass submitted from Kingsley Lake. The ring goes to the biggest verified bass of the season.

Porschia Gabrielse was the first angler with three Hall-of-Fame bass — a 13-, 14-, and 15-pounder — all from small Polk County ponds. She has contributed a total of 41 TrophyCatches to the program.

“TrophyCatch provides significant data to help manage our valuable, ensuring that Florida remains the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Each Hall-of-Fame fish would be a state record in 28 states, and Florida has had 23 documented in three years. A 15-pounder exceeds the records in all but 12 other states.

To become a TrophyCatch winner yourself, catch, document and release a largemouth bass legally that is 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To enter a trophy bass, take a photo of the entire bass on a scale with the weight visible, and release it alive. Being legal includes having a Florida freshwater fishing license or approved exemption, so make sure you are covered.

For more information , check out Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida, and YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida.