published Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Area eyes Florida bass


by Dan Cook
  • photo
    Contributed photo courtesy of Nick Trippel Nick Trippel displays a Florida bass like those that have been successfully stocked in other states to enhance the fisheries.

Here in Tennessee, a question remains as to whether genetically mixing Florida bass with the Northern strain common in Chickamauga and Nickajack lakes will have a positive effect on their sizes.

But if the mix can enhance Tennessee reservoirs anything like it has the southern portions of Texas, Oklahoma and California, plus others in Louisiana and Virginia, it would be a welcome sight to bass fishermen. The blending has paid off handsomely in those areas.

Wes Porak, biologist in charge of program development and implementation for the Florida Game and Fish Commission, recently talked about how the introduction of the Florida strain has influenced lakes in other states.

In May 1959, 20,400 Florida bass were stocked in Otay Reservoir of San Diego County in California.

“The result was superior growth,” Porak reported at the 45th annual conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association in Punta Gorda, Fla., earlier this fall.

California biologists credit the stockings for the success, including a 25-pound, 1-ounce bass pulled out of Dixon Lake. It would’ve been a world record except that it was released back into the water without being officially weighed.

“Lots of 18-22-pound bass have been caught there,” Porak said.

Texas is another example of Florida bass benefit. About eight million fish a year are being stocked in at least 126 lakes there.

“Before, the state record was a 13.5 (in Lake Medina in 1943),” Porak said. “That record was broken five times within a decade.”

Today, more than 450 bass weighing at least 13 pounds have been recorded in the Lone Star State.

“Lake Conroe produced a 15.93 in 2008,” Porak said. “Lake Fork has produced 243 lunkers as heavy as 13 pounds. Thirty-five of the top 50 bass in Texas have come from there, including the state record, an 18-3.”

A Louisiana reservoir produced fish up to 16 pounds following the introduction of Florida bass.

In a new Virginia lake where Floridas were stocked 3-1 over natives, the result was 291 trophy citations and bass over 12 pounds.

Stocking of Florida bass in 82 Oklahoma reservoirs began in 1973.

“The state record was broken six times in the 1980s,” Porak said. “Oklahoma studies have validated 251 trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. Ninety-three percent had Florida bass genes.”

Some reservoirs don’t do so well, however.

“The poorest was in northwestern and western Oklahoma,” he said. “Too cold: Florida bass evolve in warm climates.”

Water temperature is a point of consideration when introducing Florida bass into Tennessee lakes, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency assistant chief of fisheries Bobby Wilson said in a phone interview after the conference.

Floridas have been stocked in the Volunteer State for 10 years, but a study after the first five revealed little genetic difference, he noted.

“The first five years, we were stocking everywhere at five fish per acre (in Lake Chickamauga),” he said. “Then we decided to concentrate on three creeks (in the reservoir), stocking then at 30 fish per acre.”

The agency is awaiting results from this latest procedure, but Wilson is optimistic.

“I think they’ll do fine here,” he said. “Our line (below which Florida bass are expected to add to the sizes) runs from Dyersburg to Chattanooga.”

Information based on the number of high-degree days obtained from the Tennessee Valley Authority was used as a basis, he said. Other states have used similar gauges.

A lake such as Tims Ford — which has a lot of deep, cold water — probably will not benefit, Wilson said. Warmer Chickamauga, Nickajack and Kentucky lakes likely will be the best candidates, he added.

On a smaller scale, Gibson Lake — a county reservoir in West Tennessee — produced positive results when a study was done there. In 1995 and ’96, half Floridas and half Northerns were used in a Gibson stocking.

“About two years ago, we had fins from fish caught cut and put in a vial of alcohol for study. It turned out that 20 of 25 were bigger, Florida fish,” Wilson said. “Actually, we think (Floridas) will work under certain conditions.”

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