FWC News Release
Contact: Bill Pouder, 863-648-3200
Seven thousand hatchery-reared largemouth bass, implanted with coded wire tags, will be stocked in Pinellas County’s Lake Seminole on Oct. 23. The 700-acre lake will play host to a unique research project that will compare growth and survivability rates of stocked bass with those of wild largemouths.
“The ultimate goal of the study is to improve the survival rate of hatchery-reared largemouth bass, while enhancing the lake’s fishery,” said Bill Pouder, FWC fisheries biologist. “Our studies indicate Lake Seminole has a huge forage base capable of supporting a much larger bass population.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the University of Florida have teamed up for the research project. The FWC biologists will be sampling the lake and measuring growth rates at predetermined intervals of seven days, 30 days, 60 days and 90 days after the fish are stocked. A special wand that can detect the tiny, metal tags will be used to separate stocked bass from wild ones.
Bass for the study were produced at the FWC’s Florida Bass Conservation Center, Richloam Fish Hatchery in Webster. The 7,000 fish are “phase-2” largemouth bass, meaning they average 6 inches in length. These fish are the same genetic strain of Florida largemouth bass found locally, which also should aid in improving survival.
Historically, largemouth bass have been cultured to fingerling sizes and stocked when they reach about 1.5 inches in length. Stocking larger fish will enable them to feed on the high abundance of prey in the lake, which should increase survival. Because of fast growth rates of these bass, stocked fish should be of harvestable size – about 14 inches – by next year.
In spite of the advantages of stocking larger bass, producing them for stocking poses some significant challenges. In the mid-1990s FWC fish hatcheries developed techniques to train fingerling bass to eat commercial feeds. Unfortunately, there were no commercial diets available that met the specific nutritional needs of warm-water largemouths. The FWC enlisted the help of Dr. Paul Cardeilhac with the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville to develop a specific diet for hatchery-raised Florida largemouth bass.
Diet formulations and research trials began in the spring of 2001 at the Richloam hatchery. Large groups of study fish are now fed new formulations based on results of studies from previous years. This nutritional work with largemouth bass represents the only work of its kind and may ultimately be utilized at warm-water fish hatcheries throughout the United States.