by Rick Stout
Annual freshwater fish hatchery production for FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management has been completed for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013). The hatcheries had another exceptional year. For the 12-month period, the Blackwater Fisheries and Research Development Center (Holt County) and the Florida Bass Conservation Center (Sumter County) combined to release over 3.5 million fish for recreational fishing in lakes and rivers statewide. Hatchery production included nine species, incorporating both warm- and coolwater species. These included striped bass and Sunshine bass, two distinct sizes of Florida largemouth bass, white bass, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish and channel catfish. Triploid grass carp (a sterile herbivorous species that are used to control aquatic vegetation) used at the hatcheries were also relocated for agency invasive aquatic plant control programs elsewhere in the state.
Stocking programs for Florida largemouth bass were conducted this year to enhance reproduction or to reintroduce bass into lakes that were recovering from severe low water conditions. Large systems including Orange Lake and Newnans Lake in Alachua county received a total of 39,000 advanced-sized bass[jc1] , while Lake Talquin just outside Tallahassee received 54,000 advanced bass. These bass are released at a larger size (approximately 4 inches) than typical fingerlings (1.5 inches) to utilize larval threadfin shad and other forage species as a food source to improve survival. A total of 296,000 Florida largemouth bass were released this year in Florida’s waters. North Florida anglers benefited this year from release of over 369,000 Gulf striped bass into the Yellow, Blackwater and Ochlockonee rivers. A number of lakes in the central Florida region were stocked with a related fish, the Sunshine bass, which is a hybrid between the striped bass and white bass. Lakes Apopka and Harris received over 330,000 fingerling Sunshine bass, and 274,000 hybrids were released in other systems that included Lake Manatee (Manatee county), Medard Reservoir (Hillsborough county), Caloosahatchee River (Glades county) and smaller Fish Management Area lakes in the Marion, Columbia, Hamilton and Palm Beach counties.
Channel catfish, the only non-game fish produced by the fish hatcheries, were stocked in over 65 individual lakes and ponds to enhance recreational fishing statewide. Primarily targeting our younger anglers, channel catfish are released at a much larger average length (over 8 inches). This provides a “put and take” fishery so that young anglers don’t have to wait for the stocked fish to grow to enjoy a great fishing experience and are often associated with youth education programs.
A detailed listing of hatchery production by species is shown below.