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Entries in TrophyCatch (20)

Wednesday
Oct082014

Florida's TrophyCatch 'Huge Success' in Second Year

TrophyCatch at Lake Istokpoga. Photo provided by FWC

Season two of TrophyCatch was a "huge success," according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

In season two alone, we documented about 1,000 trophy-sized bass caught in Florida and released to continue growing, spawning and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Five anglers caught Hall of Fame bass weighing more than 13 pounds each. They will receive  hand-painted replicas of their catches (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Another 229 anglers joined the Trophy Club in season two by submitting photos documenting bass 10 to 12.9 pounds that they caught and released. Each earned $150 in gift cards, plus a long-sleeve custom shirt from Bass King Clothing.

A remarkable 758 bass weighing 8 to 9.9 pounds were entered in the Lunker Club, and each generated $100 in gifts cards and a short-sleeve Bass King T-shirt. Finally, 386 bass over 8 pounds were submitted that did not have the required information to be accepted into TrophyCatch but received certificates as Big Catches.

Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sep. 30, 2014, to be included in the season two competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catch submitted and approved. After that the annual champion will be announced and win the Championship Ring, provided by the Americans Outdoor Fund. The current leader is Joseph Morrell, who caught, documented’ and released a 14-pound, 9-ounce Florida largemouth on March 8 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County.

Every angler who registered, free of cost, at TrophyCatchFlorida.com is entered into an annual drawing for a $40,000 bass boat package. Phoenix boats donated a 619 Pro, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. In addition, every time an angler has a TrophyCatch verified, he or she earned 10 more chances to win the boat.

To see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away, go to FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida. By subscribing to YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida you can check out the winners from the first year and be notified when the new winners’ videos are posted.

“Year two produced five times as many winners as the first year,” said KP Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We know there are many more trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have the necessary tools to verify the weight or didn’t yet know about the program.”

Remember, season three (Oct.1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015) is underway, so take a camera and scale fishing with you. Be sure to get the required photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail on the scale, with the weight legible, and the scale held properly by the handle. The photo of the whole fish on the scale is critical to being approved for rewards, so the higher the resolution and sharper the image the better.

You also may submit supplemental photos that aren’t required. Consider including a close-up of the scale to make it easier to read the weight, a photo of the length and maybe girth, and a photo of the angler holding or releasing the catch. You can upload up to five photos or an MP4 video with each submission.

Tournament anglers can participate by submitting a photo of themselves with their catch and a link to the official tournament results showing their name, the weight of the individual bass, date and water body. Another option for large-tournament anglers is to include a photo of a digital scale printout that has that data imprinted on it.

Fishing guides around the state are finding this a great way to promote their business by helping customers get the required weight photos and telling them how easy it is to register and submit their catch.

All of this activity helps achieve the TrophyCatch goals, which are to preserve these valuable fish, learn how to enhance their abundance, and promote recreational fishing.

To see all the catches, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and click on “View Gallery” or “Search.” The latter allows you to narrow down results by angler, county, water body or date. 

Monday
Sep082014

Anglers Register More Than 1,000 Bass in Florida's TrophyCatch

Mark Lemieux has caught at least 17 TrophyCatch bass since January, all of from an Ocklawaha area lake. This one weighed 11-9. FWC photo

More than 1,000 largemouth bass exceeding 8 pounds have been caught, documented, and released in Florida in less than two years. Want to know where and see photos? Simply go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and select the “Gallery of Catches” or you can pick “Search Catches” to narrow your results.

“TrophyCatch has been exceptionally well-received by anglers, corporate partners, nonprofits and conservation agencies around the country that see this as an innovative win-win program,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

TrophyCatch is the result of a partnership effort between the FWC, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. and corporate partners. It is an incentive-based conservation program designed for anglers who catch and release largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds, in Florida. Program goals are as follows:

  • Collect valid information through citizen-science about trophy bass to help the FWC enhance, conserve and promote trophy bass fishing.
  • Encourage catch-and-release of the biggest, oldest, most valuable bass.
  • Excite anglers about Florida freshwater fishing, encouraging them to purchase licenses and to fish more, resulting in benefits to anglers, fishing-related businesses, local communities and the fisheries by having more support and funding for conservation.
  • Share information about fishing opportunities and destinations to make fishing more enjoyable.

Anglers are encouraged to follow catch-and-release guidelines for these big bass and to document the catch through a photograph of the entire bass on a scale with the weight clearly legible. By registering at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, anglers are eligible for an annual drawing for a Phoenix Bass Boat, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. Then, when they follow the rules to document legally caught bass heavier than 8 pounds and release them alive in the same water system where caught, they earn  prizes (see website for detailed rules and prize information).

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.)

Monday
Jul212014

Florida to Offer Saltwater Version of TrophyCatch

Starting this fall, Florida will implement a saltwater version of its two-year-old TrophyCatch program, which reward anglers for catching big bass. The announcement was made recently at the ICAST fishing industry show in Orlando.

The “Life List” will include 71 species with four levels of achievement, based on the number of fish that anglers catch, document, photography, and release.

Additionally, fishermen will be recognized for various types of “grand slams,” including inshore (redfish, sea trout, and flounder) and blue water (dorado, sailfish, and wahoo).

The “Reel Big Fish” portion of the program will reward anglers who catch memorable, but not necessarily state- or world-record fish. For example, an amberjack of 50 inches or longer would qualify, as would a mutton snapper of 38 inches or more.

Four levels of prizes, ranging from novice to master angler, will be awarded.

Learn more here.

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.”