Citing concern over species population, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has suspended harvest and possession of shoal bass from the Chipola River and its tributaries.
The FWC executive order on June 5 is effective immediately will be in effect indefinitely. Catch-and-release fishing is still permitted.
FWC says shoal bass population in the Chipola may have been negatively impacted by Hurricane Michael. Recent samplings showed significantly lower catches of shoal bass.
The state-record shoal bass — 5.95-pounds, caught by Sheldon Grace in 2017 — came out of the Chipola, the only waterbody in Florida where there is a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass.
“Shoal bass are one of the least common bass species found in Florida because of their limited range,” said Chris Paxton, regional fisheries administrator for FWC’s Northwest Region. “We are doing everything we can to ensure through proactive conservation actions that the shoal bass population remains healthy, and anglers have the opportunity to enjoy this vibrant and valued bass species for years to come.”
Those actions included taking 16 shoal bass from the river to the Blackwater Fish Hatchery near Holt to be spawned and potentially supplement the population.
Shoal bass are similar in body shape to largemouth bass, but unlike the largemouth, the shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin; its first and second dorsal fins are clearly connected, and its upper jaw does not extend past the eye. Shoal bass also lack the dark lateral (down the side) band that largemouth have. Shoal bass have vertical stripes above the midline of the body which resemble tiger stripes.
Learn more about the Chipola River