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Entries in trophy bass (32)

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.

 

Wednesday
Apr022014

Oklahoma's Arbuckles Yields More Big Bass

Lone Grove anglers Doyle Idleman and Marco Vaca hold a five-bass stringer that totaled 42.71 pounds at Lake of the Arbuckles on March 23. (Photo courtesy Future Bass Team Trail)

Is Lake of the Arbuckles the Oklahoma version of Texas’ Lake Fork? It appears that way, courtesy of Florida-strain bass stocked there by the state.

Here’s the latest Arbuckles big-bass news from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

If not for the two that got away, tournament anglers Marco Vaca and Doyle Idleman might possibly have weighed-in a five-bass stringer of nearly 50 pounds. As it turned out, their 42.71-pound sack on March 23 at Lake of the Arbuckles was enough to win the Future Bass Team Trail's first 2014 divisional contest, Trail director Joe Copeland said.

The giant stringer also eclipsed Arbuckle's heavy-sack record: 42.04 pounds caught by former Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson in January 2013.

For the past several years, Lake of the Arbuckles in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been giving up lunker largemouth bass. Vaca and Idleman's largest fish bent the scale at 10.93 pounds, but even that did not win the biggest-bass honor at the tournament! The second-place team of Terry Alsup and Brad Hill had the day's big bass at 11.69 pounds, with a five-fish stringer totaling 34.16 pounds.

Six bass at the tournament weigh-in went more than 10 pounds. And only 14 boats were entered.

"I've been fishing tournaments for 30 years in Oklahoma, and I've never seen anything like it," Copeland said of the south-central Oklahoma lake. "With what's coming out of it now, there's no doubt a state record is in there."

Vaca, 33, said he did not begin bass fishing until 2009. Still, he said he's reeled in "a bunch of 10-pounders" during his brief fishing career. "That lake there has been really good to me," the Lone Grove angler said.

Vaca said the water temperature at Arbuckle was 49 degrees, and most of his team's bass were caught in the morning. The two biggest fish were in the live well within 45 minutes after the tournament started. He said they were hitting crankbaits and Alabama rigs in about 15 to 20 feet of water.

Mid-March has proved to be a great time to catch big bass in Oklahoma, as the fish are laden with eggs and preparing to spawn in the next few weeks. The last two state record largemouth bass were caught in March 2013 and March 2012.

Copeland said it's just nature. "As the fish prepare to spawn, they are going to eat everything and fatten up. And that Alabama rig, they just can't resist it," he said.

With few exceptions, Oklahoma's biggest bass are being caught in southern Oklahoma waters, where the Wildlife Department has concentrated its efforts to grow trophy bass through its Florida bass stocking program.

In the right habitat conditions, Florida bass have proved to grow larger faster than the native northern largemouth bass that is prevalent in the state. But Florida bass survival has proved problematic north of Interstate 40, mainly because of colder winter conditions compared with what is seen in southern Oklahoma.

Three teams at the March 23 Arbuckles tournament weighed in more than 30 pounds of fish. The event's third-place team of Bill Chapman and Johnny Owens brought in five bass totaling 32 pounds.

Vaca tipped his hat to the other teams for their remarkable efforts. "If I had 30 pounds of fish in the livewell, I would not think I was going to get beat!" But on Lake of the Arbuckles, recent bass tournaments have proved to be real heavyweight bouts.

The lake near Sulphur is part of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The Wildlife Department has periodically stocked the lake with Florida bass fingerlings for many years.

Lake of the Arbuckles has a daily limit of six largemouth or smallmouth bass combined, and all largemouth and smallmouth bass from 13 to 16 inches long must be returned to the water immediately.