by David Yeager
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists recently collected adult striped bass from the Blackwater River, for use in Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center (BFRDC). The goal? In the short term, to spawn more striped bass to be stocked in the river. Ultimately, however, the aim is to restore Gulf race striped bass to the rivers of northwest Florida to enhance the current fishery and create a new trophy fishery.
What makes three large fish collected there on April 2 special is the fact that they themselves were originally stocked by FWC, and will now be making their own contribution to the next generation of stripers to swim the river. The biggest fish was a 27-pound female, while the other two were males weighing 22 and 16 pounds. Based on size, the female was probably at least 10 years old. These fish are a result of FWC’s striped bass stocking program in the Blackwater River, which began in 1987.
All three fish were spawned together on April 4, and produced over 300,000 fry. Some of these fry have been stocked in “grow out ponds” at the Blackwater Hatchery, where they will remain until reaching fingerling size and being stocked back into the river next month. This “circle of life” is contributing to angler catches that would not otherwise be possible from the Blackwater, thanks to the biologists—and some volunteer fish—at Blackwater hatchery.
Update: As of mid-May 50,000 of these fingerlings have been successfully stocked.