by Charlie Mesing and Andy Strickland
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) stocked more than 54,000 “advanced” sized hatchery largemouth bass in Lake Talquin May 1-3, 2013. These bass were spawned and raised to 1-2 inches at the Florida Bass Conservation Center (FBCC) in Brooksville. Bass were then sent to the Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center (in Holt, FL) and grown to an “advanced” size of 3-4 inches using innovated hatchery techniques to produce a live-prey food source suitable for 1-2 inch largemouth bass.
The challenging process of growing small hatchery bass to advanced size was developed and refined by Hatchery Manager, Dave Yeager, at the Blackwater Fisheries and Research Development Center. These advanced hatchery bass have a decided survival advantage over natural bass. The advanced sized hatchery bass are much larger which reduces the number of predators large enough to eat them, and at the same time increases the available size and variety of forage fish, such as threadfin shad, that can be consumed immediately after stocking.
Bass are being stocked into Lake Talquin to supplement weak year classes of bass resulting from limited aquatic habitats. All bass stocked in 2013 have been “micro-wire tagged” with a small metal tag for future identification. The tagging process is a team effort, with five or six biologists working at individual tagging stations to carefully insert a small metal wire in the cheek of each fish. Other workers bring the taggers a steady supply of fingerlings, and transfer tagged fish to a holding tank where they are held until ready to be stocked. The fish are not harmed, and the tags can remain in place providing valuable data for years. Tags are not visible to the naked eye, but must be detected with a special handheld scanner. You can learn more about wire tagging at Youtube.com/watch?v=EREak3aNIa8.
The Lake Talquin supplemental bass stocking program began in 2000. Since then, more than 700,000 of these 3-4 inch advanced bass have been stocked. Several trophy bass (greater than 8 lbs) have been collected in recent years, and confirmed as hatchery stocked bass by the presence of wire tags. The largest tagged hatchery bass collected to date weighed 12.5 lbs—a very successful journey from the inches-long fingerling it was originally stocked as. Lake Talquin is the most successful bass stocking program in the Southeast, and bass anglers will reap the benefits of the 2013 stocking for years to come.
Charlie Mesing (HSC) 850-528-3915
Andy Strickland (FWRI) 850-528-0636