More than a year after resource managers removed a catch-and-release-only regulation for West Virginia's Stonewall Jackson Lake, resource managers believe that big bass numbers haven’t diminished.
“It’s a bit early to tell, but at this point we haven’t seen a difference whatsoever,” Jim Walker, district fisheries biologist, told Metro News. “We encourage you to do whatever you want with the fish when you catch it. It’s your prerogative. But the majority of anglers are still releasing them, and it’s not affecting the population whatsoever."
They’re still releasing them at the 2,600-acre impoundment, even though now anglers can keep six bass each, with one over 18 inches. The West Virginia Natural Resources Commission decided to allow harvest of smaller fish because of an overall decline in size of largemouths and a growing spotted bass population.
To learn even more about what anglers are doing with those larger fish, biologists tagged some of them this past summer, when the bass were shallow.
“When an angler catches one of these tagged bass, they look at the tag, call us up, and tell us what they did with the fish,” Walker explained. “Did they keep the bass or did they release the bass? That information will help us with future regulations.”