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Florida Fish Busters Bulletin February 2014

Bass season off to a record-breaking start.


By: Bob Wattendorf , with John Cimbaro and KP Clements Largemouth bass Florida bucket mouths are showing up in abundance this winter, with an outstanding year projected by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists. The first year of TrophyCatch ended, and the awards were all given out, but now the challenge is on for year two. TrophyCatch rewards anglers for catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. Bob Williams of Alloway, N.J., earned the
Dan Echols shows off a properly documented Trophy Club entry from Lake Istokpoga. More TrophyCatch entries were verified from Lake Istokpoga the first year than from any other large lake.

TrophyCatch Championship Ring for the first season. It was presented at Bass Pro

Shops in Orlando last month by Keith Alan, from the American Outdoors Fund, and Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. His winning catch was a 13-pound, 14-ounce largemouth from Rodman Reservoir. He previously earned a free ($500 value) fiberglass replica of his catch and other awards totaling
Bob Williams' TrophyCatch Championship ring from season one.

approximately $1,000.

A $10,000 check was handed to Peter Perez at a special ceremony at West Lake Tohopekaliga by Experience Kissimmee representatives Debby Guertin and Terry Segraves, along with Champeau. Perez
Tom Champeau, Debby Guertin and Terry Segraves present Peter Perez (second from right) the $10,000 Experience Kissimmee TrophyCatch award for season one.

caught the largest TrophyCatch verified bass from Osceola County to win the prize.

His winning 12-pound, 3-ounce bass was caught last March in a neighborhood pond on a Rat-L-Trap. The winner of the 2013 Phoenix 619 bass boat, powered by Mercury, was surprised angler Frank Ay. His prize was presented to him following a club tournament on Lake Okeechobee by professional bass angler Bobby Lane, Champeau and KP Clements, the TrophyCatch coordinator. Ay won the
As an Under The Bridge film crew looks on, Tom Champeau and Bobby Lane surprise Frank Ay (center) with a Phoenix 619 bass boat powered by Mercury--just for registering at www.TrophyCatchFlorida.com.

$40,000 grand prize via a random drawing from among 4,000 anglers that registered for TrophyCatch the first season. See the TrophyCatch Florida YouTube channel (YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida) for coverage of each of those awards. For the second year, which began Oct. 1, documenting a TrophyCatch has gotten simpler. Start by registering for free at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, and you

will automatically be entered to win a Phoenix bass boat, powered by Mercury and equipped with a PowerPole. This year the only required photo is one of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale, with the weight visible. Always attempt to get that shot, but if it isnt perfect, supplement it with a close up of the scale, a photo of the entire fish on a bumpboard or tape measure, and maybe even a shot of the

Season two (Oct. 1, 2013-Sep. 30, 2014) is easier than ever. To encourage effective catch and release, the ideal photo is one of the entire fish on a scale, with the weight legible. Other photos are recommended to supplement your entry, if the fish can be safely released.

basss girth. This will help a verification team of fisheries biologists determine if the fish is eligible for recognition. You can also submit a bragging photo and perhaps a release photo on the website. Every verified entry gives you 10 more chances for the Phoenix boat drawing in October. The second year is off to a great start, with 63 Lunker entries (8-9.9 pounds) and 26 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) recorded in less than the first four months, and more than twice as many entries in December 2013 compared with December 2012. The first Hall of Fame entry (greater than 13 pounds) is awaiting verification. Besides checking out the gallery, under view catches at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, you should also review the rules and prizes. Then be sure to follow us at FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida to see all the latest entries and get updates on special events.

The peak season is still in front of us, and FWC biologists have worked to narrow down a list of top sites to recommend to bass anglers for 2014 based on data from anglers, scientific sampling and an understanding of habitat trends and local conditions. By participating in TrophyCatch, you can help these biologists to further improve management and conservation of trophy bass. By releasing them alive (a mandatory condition of TrophyCatch) you will help sustain the fishery for the future and be rewarded. Rewards start, for Lunker Club entries (8-9.9 pounds) with $100 in gift cards, from partners like Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dicks Sporting Goods, and are complemented by custom apparel by Bass King Clothing, a personalized certificate and window decal. Below is a list of top bass fishing sites. See MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on Fishing Sites/Forecasts to find more details, lots of specific local fishing tips, local contacts, specific rules, access points, attractors, ramps and quarterly updates. The website also includes top destinations for other black bass species (e.g., spotted bass, shoal bass and Suwannee bass), and other freshwater fishes (e.g., bream, crappie, catfish and striped bass).

West Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho; 18,810 acres) is adjacent to Kissimmee. Lake Toho is known for producing excellent crappie and bream fishing as well as trophy largemouth bass. Angler surveys from August to November 2013 indicated bass anglers experienced an exceptional catch success rate of 0.96 fish per hour, which was the sixth consecutive year angler success was excellent.

Lake Kissimmee (34,976 acres) is the largest of five big lakes in the Kissimmee Chain. As a result of aggressive habitat management by the FWC, anglers enjoy a diverse and expansive plant community. Angler surveys in spring 2013 showed an angler catch success rate of 0.56 fish oer hour (double the statewide average), with an estimated 177 bass 24 inches or greater caught and released during the survey.

Lake George (46,000 acres) is the second largest lake in the state, and is located northwest of Deland and east of Ocala. Lake George, a natural lake in the St. Johns River, has extensive aquatic vegetation, primarily eelgrass, that provides excellent habitat for bass.

Lake Monroe (9,400 acres) is a shallow lake north of Sanford near Orlando. For the past several years, electrofishing surveys by biologists have documented some of the highest numbers of lunker bass for the St. Johns River chain.

Rodman Reservoir (9,500 acres) near Gainesville and south of Palatka, was impounded in 1968. It has been known for trophy largemouth bass ever since. Much of the fisherys success is attributed to abundant habitat in the form of stumps and submersed vegetation, and periodic drawdowns occurring every three years. Although drawdowns on Rodman are primarily to control invasive aquatic vegetation, biologists have observed strong largemouth bass spawns associated with

reservoir drawdowns. Following the large spawns, bass provide the majority of the angler catch.

Lake Tarpon (2,500acres) is near Tampa/St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. Biologists using a boat electrofisher in spring 2013 caught bass at a rate of 2.7 bass/ per minute, a rate considerably higher than typical. Most bass were 12 to 16 inches long; however, quality and trophy fish are present in good numbers.

Istokpoga (28,000 acres) is between the Kissimmee Chain of lakes and Lake Okeechobee in Highlands County near Sebring. Past angler surveys have estimated more than 1,000 bass over 8 pounds being caught in less than a years time. Further, an impressive 46 bass caught from Lake Istokpoga were entered into the TrophyCatch program during the past year the most entries from a public resource during that time period. Another 15 bass from Lake Istokpoga were entered into the BigCatch program (an FWC angler recognition program that only requires a photo and statement that the bass exceeded 24 inches or eight pounds, making documentation easier, resulting in a certificate but no significant rewards).

Tenoroc Fish Management Area (8,400 acres) near Lakeland provides a special opportunity to bass fish in Floridas famous phosphate pits. These 7- to 227-acre lakes were created by draglines during phosphate mining operations. As a result, lake bottoms have irregular contours with depths to 35 feet. Tenoroc is northeast of

Lakeland and can be accessed from Highway 33 just south of Intestate 4. Call the Tenoroc Headquarters at 863-499-2422 for more information or to make reservations. The area is open to public fishing Friday through Monday. Anglers must check in and out at the office, deposit their valid fishing license and pay $3 for a daily fishing permit.

Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, especially the southern portion,may well be Central Floridas best-kept bass fishing secret. Polk County is home to 554 named lakes, the states certified record Florida Largemouth Bass (17.27 pounds), and sells more freshwater fishing licenses than any other county. The chain comprises 14 lakes, from 25 to 1,160 acres, and more than 4,000 acres of fishable waters.

Mosaic Fish Management Area (1,000 acres), near Fort Meade in Polk and Hardee counties, is definitely worthwhile. Anglers had an average catch rate of over one bass per hour last year. There are 12 phosphate pits, from 10 to 200 acres, with depths down to 30 feet. The FMA is open to public fishing from Friday through Monday. No reservations can be made, so lake permits are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 863-648-3200 for more information.

Lake Weohyakapka (Lake Walk-in-Water; 7,500 acres) is south of Orlando and east of Lake Wales. FWC biologists sampled and released 27 bass weighing more than 8 pounds during the past year.

Lake Okeechobee (470,000 acres) is Floridas largest lake and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. A 100-yard-wide rim canal circles the lake, and secondary canals and cuts link to it, resulting in hundreds of miles of fishing water. October 2013 electrofishing samples yielded excellent catch rates for the lake, with abundant bass over 18 inches. The past four years have yielded the highest success rates, each over 1.25 bass per hour, in the 36-year history of the lakes creel survey.

Everglades Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3 (1,125 square miles) are marshlands intersected by more than 200 miles of canals. Originally designed for flood control and water supply, the area provides some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the country. Now that you have the facts, make sure you have a valid license, register at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, bring a camera and scale to weigh your catch, and start exploring some of the best bass fisheries in the world. Follow us at FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida to keep up with the latest TrophyCatch news, and hopefully youll be featured there soon.

Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select more news, or scr.bi/Fish-busters for more

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