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FB59Stocking Formatted

FB59Stocking Formatted

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Published by Bob Wattendorf
Fish Busters Bulletin about stocking fish in Florida fresh waters (Nov 2010)
Fish Busters Bulletin about stocking fish in Florida fresh waters (Nov 2010)

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Published by: Bob Wattendorf on Jun 28, 2011
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Florida Fish Busters’ BulletinNovember 2010FWC Discusses Bass Stocking IssuesBob Wattendorf 
Stock more fish! That is one of the most common suggestions from theangling public when it comes to ideas about how to improve recreationalfishing. Oh, that it was that easy.The Florida BassConservation Center (FBCC) is theFlorida Fish and WildlifeConservation Commission’s (FWC)state-of-the-art freshwater hatcheryin Sumter County. The FBCCrecently hosted a Largemouth BassStocking Workshop to discuss pastresearch and recent additions to theknowledge base that can help guidefuture stocking and research efforts.The FWC and university experts met to discuss how to integrate hatcheryfish into plans to ensure sustainable quality bass fishing.
Phase-II largemouth bass being prepared for stocking in aublic lake.
 As early as 1948, Florida fisheries biologists realized that stockingsmall fingerling bass (about 1-1.5”) into lakes or rivers with existing fish
populations did not generate substantial improvements for anglers. Part of the problem is how many of these small fish are immediately consumed bypredators or die from handling stress, and another part deals with the factthat bass are very prolific spawners. Many times more eggs and fry (babyfish) are produced than could find enough food in nature if they all grew toadulthood. Each pair of spawning bass only needs a few of their hundreds of thousands of eggs to grow to adulthood to maintain the population.Consequently, Florida and most state fisheries agencies, typically only stocksmall Phase-I fingerlings into lakes that recently reflooded, experienced amajor fish kill or lost a year class (which means a spawning season wasdisrupted often by unusual weather patterns), and where adequate habitatexists to sustain bass.However in recent years, theFWC has pioneered several new bassrearing technologies at the FBCCand through other adjunct programs.These include developing productiontechniques to rear advanced Phase-IIfingerling bass on artificial diets, including training them to eat pelleted food,developing new diets customized to their nutritional needs, and thenretraining them to take live prey fish prior to being stocked.
Phase-II fingerling bass reared on pelleted feed areretrained to take live fish prior to stocking
The FBCC can control water temperature and amount of light thatbrood fish receive (fish key their spawning to the solar cycle of long summerdays and shorter periods of light in winter) to cause bass to reproduce outsidetheir normal spring spawning period. This practice, combined with feedingadvances, allows biologists to produce Phase-II (4-6”) fingerlings for stockingwhen the most abundant supply of forage is available where bass will bestocked, for instance when baby shad are present.It is clear from recent angler surveys pertaining to the draft BlackBass Management Plan (see MyFWC.com/BassPlan_Survey) that the publicthinks FWC should stock more bass:
“The opportunity to create an abundance of world class Bassfisheries in Florida is now. It’s common knowledge that Florida is agreat place to bass fish but through proper management of thefisheries, i.e., stocking/drawdowns/and habitat replenishmentFlorida can be the world leader for trophy bass.”
“I believe a stocking program would be beneficial, due to the yearround pressure our lakes receive.”
“... stock more bass in the 6-inch to 9-inch range. Stock morenatural bait fish, of the appropriate size 1-inch to 3-inch.”So what is the best approach to stocking bass and other fish to enhancerecreational fishing? The answer seems to be that there are clear-cut benefitsto stocking bass under specific conditions, such as after a major fish kill,when a new water body is flooded (such as water storage areas and irrigationponds), or when Florida’s famous sinkholes refill. However, more research isneeded to improve the return-on-investment when bass are stocked intolakes, with established bass or other predators, to ensure enough stocked fish

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