By Bill Pouder
Anglers have had to wait three long-years before they could catch and keep largemouth bass on Edward Medard Reservoir, but the wait is over and FWC data suggests the bass fishery is back. In 2009, the reservoir was drained, so the Southwest Florida Water Management District could make necessary repairs to an aging dam. Upon refill, the FWC restocked the lake with 1.2 million fingerling (1-4 inch) sportfish including nearly 250,000 Florida strain largemouth bass produced at the FWC Bass Conservation Center in Sumter County. Genetic testing showed the newly stocked bass from 2011 reached sizes of 13.5 inches by spring 2012. Although these growth rates were phenomenal, abundance of bass in the reservoir remained low.
In spring 2012 the FWC worked with a private entity and were able to relocate 6,600 adult largemouth bass from a nearby waterbody that were stocked in Medard. Relocated fish ranged in size from 10 to 24 inches with a good number of fish up to 10 pounds. Relocated fish were fin-clipped to discern them from hatchery stock fish and wild fish. Recent electrofishing surveys in spring 2013 showed a good representation of relocated fish with relocated bass representing 65% of bass caught 14 inches or longer. These fish are also being caught by anglers and observed during the creel survey on the lake.
Edward Medard has recently been established as an FWC Fish Management Area (FMA) and a five bass bag limit with one largemouth bass over 16 inches harvest regulation was put in place. The regulation allows anglers to harvest bass less than 16 inches while protecting larger trophy-size fish.