FWC Discusses Bass Stocking Issues

Stock more fish! That is one of the most common suggestions from the angling public when it comes to ideas about how to improve recreational fishing. Oh, that it was that easy.

FWCFor specific genetic concerns associated with stocking, FWC biologists offered the following pro-con considerations.

On the pro-side, many biologists think the extra cost and time associated with addressing genetic issues is justified. After all, the Florida largemouth bass is a subspecies with unique characteristics that make it the premier freshwater sport fish in North America. Genetic conservation efforts not only protect the genetic integrity and diversity of our native subspecies by stocking only pure Florida largemouth bass into its native range (roughly the southern two-thirds of the state), put they also protect four distinct stocks of Florida largemouth bass within the state. Growing evidence shows that fish may be highly adapted to local environmental conditions because of natural selection. Mixing largemouth bass through stocking can break down local adaptations. Offspring of bass that are genetically different may have reduced growth, lower survival rates or other problems. For example, in the Midwest, hybrids of different largemouth bass stocks displayed reduced cardiovascular, swimming and respiratory performance relative to their parents, which researchers interpreted as loss of local adaptation. In addition, using large numbers of wild brood fish is necessary to maintain diversity and reduce inbreeding and domestication issues. Since stocking impacts may go undetected for generations and may be impossible to reverse, this group of scientists feels a conservative approach should be followed.

On the other hand - the "con" side - some managers feel that controlling production costs and having more bass available for stocking should be more important than genetic integrity. Keeping four separate groups of Florida bass affects the two state freshwater hatcheries by reducing production of fingerling bass for stocking because of limited hatchery space. It can also affect when fish are available for stocking, possibly missing optimal stocking times. Genetic restrictions also prohibit stocking pure Florida largemouth bass into North Florida, since a hybrid between the northern and Florida largemouth naturally exists in that area. This could limit trophy bass production for North Florida, since other southeastern states attribute trophy production to their Florida bass stocking programs.

In 2011, Florida freshwater fish hatcheries are slated to produce and stock nearly five million fish, including Phase-I and -II largemouth bass, bluegill, redear, crappie, catfish, striped bass and sunshine bass. Those fish will add tremendously to the enjoyment of more than 1.4 million anglers fishing the fresh waters of the "Fishing Capital of the World." Each year and each day, FWC fisheries biologists are working to make that fishing better. If you'd like to comment on bass stocking issues, take the brief survey at //bit.ly/LMBstock.

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