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FB77 Hatchery Fish Formatted

FB77 Hatchery Fish Formatted

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Published by Bob Wattendorf
This is the May 2012 issue of the Fish Busters' Bulletin written by Bob Wattendorf for the Florida FWC about stocking freshwater fish and Lake Talquin.
This is the May 2012 issue of the Fish Busters' Bulletin written by Bob Wattendorf for the Florida FWC about stocking freshwater fish and Lake Talquin.

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Published by: Bob Wattendorf on Apr 26, 2012
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07/02/2013

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Florida Fish Busters’ BulletinMay 2012
Hatchery bass making a difference in Florida
By Bob Wattendorf, with Rick Stout and Dave Yeager.Fisheries biologists often refer to a three-pronged approach to fisheriesmanagement: habitat, fish and people. To develop and sustain high qualityrecreational fisheries, all three components need to be addressed.Most biologists tend to stress that habitat – from water quality and quantity,to the amount of structure, including aquatic plants and resulting forage – may bethe most critical. However, managing fish, which is often seen as stocking more or“better” fish, is often the first thought of anglers. Meanwhile, the people aspect,which includes engaging the public in stewardship of the resource, participation inoutdoor recreation and regulations regarding harvest, is often the most visibleapproach.This column will focus on fishstocking but show examples of how theFlorida Fish and Wildlife ConservationCommission (FWC) integrates all three of these management aspects to makestocking successful. And, it emphasizes
FWC biologists stock fingerling largemouth bass into Lake Talquin.
 
that even after nearly three-quarters of a century of active state fisheriesmanagement, learning how to use hatchery fish effectively is still a learningprocess.Lake Talquin, an 8,800-acre reservoir near Tallahassee, is an excellentexample of the FWC’s three-tier approach. The reservoir, which was formed bydamming the Ochlockonee River for hydroelectric generation, is best known as acrappie and bream fishery. Historically, the steep embankments provided a limitedlittoral (shallow area near the shore) zone for bass to spawn and where submergedaquatic plants could grow. Those plants help shelter the eggs from currents and alsoprovide places for baby fish to hide and feed. As a result, natural bass production inthe reservoir was not optimal.Consequently, FWC biologists implemented its three-phased approach tomanage largemouth bass in Lake Talquin, beginning in 2000. These activitiesincluded planting shoreline vegetation, stocking hatchery fish and implementing an18-inch minimum size limit on black bass. Today, native bulrush, much of whichwas transplanted by FWC programs, comprises 5 percent of the shoreline. The long-term goal is to have bulrush on 7 percent to 10 percent of the shore. Onceaccomplished, natural reproduction of bass and other sunfish should be enhanced.Meanwhile, since 2000, FWC has stocked more than 700,000 advanced-sized(3- to 4-inch) hatchery bass to improve the population. These fish are extremelydifficult to raise to this size in large numbers at hatcheries because of theircannibalistic nature and the amount of pond space and time required. However,
 
these stockings using fish from the two FWC freshwater hatcheries (Blackwater inSanta Rosa County, and the Florida Bass Conservation Center in Sumter County)proved immensely successful.Timely releases of 2- to 3-inch hatchery bass, reared in ponds on natural food,resulted in 17 percent to 40 percent of the young fish collected in Lake Talquin fromOctober 2000-2003. These young hatchery fish were born the previous spring (called Age-0 fish by biologists). Three years later, hatchery fish comprised about 25percent of the angler catch from bass tournaments on Lake Talquin. These fish wereidentified using a metal-detecting wand to determine the presence of a coded-wiretag. These tags are about the size of the tip of a mechanical pencil lead, andbiologists implanted them in the cheek of the hatchery fish before stocking (seeMyFWC.com/fishing,and click “Stocking Locations/Info” for a video of the taggingprocess).Since 2010, at least 15 hatchery bass weighing 8to 11.5 pounds have been recaptured from LakeTalquin. Since only about one-fifth of the stocked fishwere tagged from 2000-03, many more fish could havebeen harvested, or caught-and-released, by anglerswho didn’t know they were holding a hatchery-spawned bass. Supplemental stocking and aquaticplant management activities, as well as the 18-inchminimum length limit may all have contributed to the
 
Charlie Mesing uses a metal detector to identify a trophy bass spawned at an FWC hatchery.

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