Catching a trophy largemouth bass is the dream of anyone who fishes for this valuable game fish, which is the most-sought species in North America. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) new TrophyCatch Program (TrophyCatchFlorida.com), launched on October 1, will increase opportunities for anglers fishing in Florida to fulfill that dream, while rewarding them for helping make other anglers’ dreams come true by letting their trophy swim for another lucky angler to catch.
Gov. Rick Scott understands the importance of recreational fishing to Florida, which annually generates more than $8 billion in economic impact and supports more than 75,000 jobs. In Florida, freshwater bass alone annually provide anglers more than 14 million days of healthy outdoor recreation and generate approximately $1.25 billion in economic impact (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006). The FWC’s management programs are designed to provide enjoyment for even more anglers and thus increase tourism and economic benefits. TrophyCatch will help accomplish that and document progress.
“TrophyCatch is an innovative program to reward anglers for being great resource stewards by legally catching and releasing trophy largemouth bass,” Scott said.
TrophyCatch includes three tiers to encourage reporting and live-releasing bass heavier than 8 pounds that are caught in Florida waters. Bass 8 to 9.9 pounds (Lunker Club), or those 10 to 12.9 pounds (Trophy Club) that are caught, documented and released can be reported online at TrophyCatchFlorida.com anytime of the year. All that is required to qualify for great prizes are photos of the entire fish on a scale with the weight visible, and one of the fish on a tape measurer, showing the length. Bass that are heavier than 13 pounds and are caught between Oct 1. and April 30 each year must be certified by FWC staff to verify their weight and take genetic samples. Certified catches that are released or provided to FWC for research will be entered into the Hall of Fame Club, making the angler eligible for great prizes. The World Fishing Network is partnering with the FWC to promote and manage the trophy bass website.
“TrophyCatch will enable biologists to manage lakes and rivers better by providing valuable incentives to anglers for reporting and releasing their catches of trophy bass,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. The information will be used to evaluate and improve management strategies that produce more and larger bass.
Numerous industry sponsors are providing prizes to encourage conservation of these valuable fish. Phoenix Boats is offering a boat and trailer to a randomly selected angler who registers for the program. Anglers who legally catch, photo-document and attest to releasing trophy bass in Florida are eligible for prizes. Bass Pro Shops and Dick’s Sporting Goods are providing gift cards, Rapala Lures is providing coupons to redeem on their website, and Bass King Clothing is giving away custom fishing gear. Other sponsors such as Pro Line Custom Rods, US Reels and GlenLau.com are providing extra incentives for Hall of Fame anglers, who also receive a free fiberglass replica of their catch produced by New Wave Taxidermy.
The biggest bass of the year will earn a Super Bowl-like ring, from the American Outdoors Fund, for the angler who catches it. If it is caught in Osceola County, the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) will award the lucky angler $10,000. In addition, if the angler is on a guided fishing trip, the guide will receive $2,500 from the CVB.
“It is important for anglers to read and understand all the rules and details about rewards, which may change during the year, since they are provided by various sponsors,” said Champeau (see TrophyCatchFlorida.com).
The governor isn’t alone in touting TrophyCatch. For decades, millions of anglers have learned how to fish from the true legends in the sport: Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin. These icons of the fishing world have combined forces to continue their dedication to conservation and angler education. “The Legends” announced this week that they officially endorse TrophyCatch.
“Florida produces a lot of trophy bass, and TrophyCatch will provide biologists with critical data while offering attractive incentives for anglers to properly handle and release their catch,” said Martin.
Houston praised this conservation effort as “a great partnership with industry to protect our fisheries and promote fishing.”
“Catching a trophy-size largemouth bass is the dream of anyone who fishes, and TrophyCatch will help anglers fishing in Florida to fulfill that dream,” added Dance.
For more information, call KP Clements, the FWC’s TrophyCatch coordinator, at 352-409-8815 or email her at KP.Clements@MyFWC.com.