Why are so many of the lunker bass entered in Florida's TrophyCatch program coming from little Kingsley Lake in the northeastern part of the state?
That's what biologist Drew Dutterer and other researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hope to determine in a two-year study financed with a grant by the federal Sport Fish Restoration program. Information gained during the two-year project also should help resource managers better understand big bass in general.
"It's an opportunity to learn some things about rare individuals in bass populations at one of the places that seems to produce a lot of them, Dutterer said.
"A lot" is an understatement. The 2,000-acre, semi-private lake (surrounded by private homes and Camp Blanding) has yielded 80 bass of 10 pounds or more since 2013 and a dozen that weighed 13 pounds or better since March of 2014. Last year, 5 of the state's 10 biggest bass came from Kingsley, and anglers caught two 15-pound trophies in one week, including the state's largest fish of the year, 15-11.
“Trophy bass are a pretty big priority for our agency and for the state of Florida," the biologist said. " It’s one of the identifying characteristics of our Florida bass fishery, and one of the reasons a lot of people come over winter and take fishing vacations in Florida, the chance to catch a big fish."
One aspect of the study involves following the movements of 10 bass of 9 to 13 pounds that have been tagged with transmitters. This could be especially revealing because the lake is far deeper than most in Florida, with at least 300 acres that are 40 feet or more and a few places that drop below 80.
And deep means cooler water during the summer.
"Cooler water may allow bass to live and operate with a slightly lower metabolic rate," Dutterer said. "If Kingsley stratifies and there is cooler water available to the fish in the summer, then they could possibly have a lower metabolism and that could allow them to grow more during the year or it may allow them to live longer."
Additionally, FWC has asked anglers to help by snipping off a bit of a fin on bass of 8 pounds or more and placing the samples in collection bottles available at the lake. "It's a proof positive way that we can document that catch and release really does work and leads to increase to increased opportunities to catch trophy fish," the biologist said.