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TrophyCatch Helps Demonstrate Success of Lake Trafford Restoration





During a recent fishing tournament, John Stewart, 54, of Alva caught, documented and released an 8-pound, 2-ounce Florida largemouth bass on Lake Trafford.

This bass, caught Feb. 7, showcases the remarkable recovery of fishing at Lake Trafford after years of restoration efforts led by citizens of Collier County, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Biologists with the FWC verified this impressive fish for the agency's TrophyCatch conservation program.

Over the past several years, Lake Trafford has been the focus of a major multi-agency restoration project. Restoration efforts included the dredging of over 6 million cubic yards of muck from the lake and re-establishing native vegetation. In the past, the muck triggered algal blooms and fish kills.

“I am so very proud of the partnership built between our local community, Collier County, the FWC and partner agencies,” said FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy, “The grass-roots efforts by the local community, businesses and the people of Collier County set in motion the process that brought us to this successful conclusion -- this celebrated catch.”

After years of poor habitat conditions and a series of devastating fish kills, this catch highlights the remarkable recovery of fishing at Lake Trafford. Largemouth bass had been the sport fish species most impacted by the degraded habitat conditions over the past 20 years. Excessive amounts of muck lead to low oxygen levels that nearly eliminated the largemouth bass population from the lake. The lake's poor condition also impacted bluegill, crappie and redear sunfish, but to a lesser extent. After dredging, the FWC stocked about 500,000 largemouth bass fingerlings to supplement the native Lake Trafford community and jump-start the recovery of the fishery.

“A number of dedicated people, past and present, put in a lot of effort and energy to help bring this fishery back,” said Jon Fury, deputy director of the FWC Division of Freshwater Fisheries. “Seeing a largemouth bass entered into TrophyCatch from this lake is very gratifying.”

“Almost four years ago to the day, I had the privilege of participating in the honorary ‘first cast' into the freshly dredged Lake Trafford at the celebration of our collective restoration efforts,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “This is exactly the kind of success I envision for all the fish and wildlife of south Florida, including the Everglades, when I speak about our need to work together for the benefit of the environment.”

The FWC continues to contribute to restoration and habitat enhancement at Lake Trafford, and across Florida, through its Aquatic Habitat and Conservation Section.

How are other anglers doing on Lake Trafford?

“A week after the tournament where John Stewart caught his fish, Gary Stenic caught an 8-and-3-quarter pounder,” said Lake Trafford Marina owner Ski Olesky, “We're seeing real improvement in the size and quality of bass being caught.”

For making the first approved TrophyCatch submission from Lake Trafford, Stewart qualifies for a special set of prizes including a U.S. Reel casting reel, a Glen Lau DVD and a gift certificate from Alligators and Airboats at Lake Trafford Marina, as well as the standard TrophyCatch incentives.

TrophyCatch is an incentive-based conservation program designed for anglers who catch and release largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. For more information visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com. For more information on Lake Trafford and similar FWC freshwater restoration efforts go to MyFWC.com/Conservation and click on Freshwater programs.

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