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Florida Largemouth Bass Stocked in Area Lakes
By Todd Driscoll - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Fish stockings have been used for many years to develop populations in new reservoirs and to supplement populations in existing reservoirs. The state of Texas has a long history with fish stockings, going back to the 1890's with the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), then known as the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission, began stocking hatchery-raised largemouth bass in 1941. Hatchery production greatly increased during the 1960's, which resulted in more widespread stockings.
Up through the 1970's, only native northern largemouth bass were stocked. During that period, TPWD started to experiment with the Florida largemouth bass, a largemouth bass subspecies native to Florida. Earlier work by the state of California indicated that Florida largemouth bass had superior growth rates and greater potential to reach larger sizes when compared to the native northern largemouth bass. In 1972, TPWD first introduced Florida largemouth bass into public reservoirs.

The Florida largemouth bass stocking program has been extremely successful in many of our reservoirs. For example, the long-standing 1943 state record largemouth bass of 13.5 pounds was broken in 1980 by a Florida largemouth bass weighing 14.1 pounds. Since then, many fish exceeding the 1980 record have been caught and it now takes a fish over 15 pounds to be included in the list of the top 50 largemouth bass caught in Texas!

Currently, objectives of this program are to increase bass fishing quality by increasing the size of fish caught and to provide more trophy fish. A common misconception is that these Florida bass are stocked in reservoirs to increase overall bass numbers. These fish are not stocked in an attempt to increase numbers of bass, but to increase Florida largemouth bass genes to the existing gene pool. In our larger reservoirs, the total number of young bass surviving each year is limited by factors such as habitat conditions and food availability. The suitability of these factors may change from year to year, resulting in strong year classes of bass some years and weak year classes in others. Typically, natural bass reproduction will maximize the carrying capacity of a reservoir each year. Therefore, stocking Florida largemouth bass rarely increases total numbers, but increases the percentage of Florida largemouth bass in the population.

Typically, reservoirs have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for Florida bass stockings. In reservoirs that have produced trophy bass, Florida bass can be stocked if current data indicate that pure Florida largemouth bass comprise < 20% of the population. Reservoirs without a history of producing lunkers are also stocked with Florida bass, but only if the total Florida bass alleles (including both pure Floridas and crosses with native northern bass) are < 20 % of the population.

During May and June, Florida largemouth bass fingerlings were stocked in several smaller waterbodies including Adams Bayou (50,538), Nacogdoches (110,152), and Kurth (56,851). Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs were both scheduled to receive 500,000 fingerlings. Due to the exceptional production year of our hatchery staff, surplus Florida bass were available. In regards to Florida bass stockings, both reservoirs are highly prioritized when compared to others in the state. As a result, we ended up stocking a total of 1,049,887 fingerlings in Sam Rayburn and 740,373 fingerlings in Toledo Bend. The goal for both reservoirs is to have pure Florida largemouth bass comprise > 20 % of the population. Currently, the percentages are less than 10 % at both reservoirs.

If you have questions concerning the fisheries of our area lakes, stop by the Inland Fisheries office at the Jasper State Fish Hatchery or contact us by phone (409-384-9572) or email (todd3d@jas.net). Good luck and good fishing!

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