April 26, 2013
by Rick Stout & Dave Yeager
Introducing the new Hatchery Tracker blog where anglers can follow seasonal fish production activities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC's) two freshwater fish hatcheries: Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center, and the Florida Bass Conservation Center. We are excited to bring you along as the fisheries staff spawns and grows out largemouth bass, black crappie, striped bass, sunshine bass and catfish to ultimately release in a lake or river near you. Both hatcheries have a long and rich history in Florida, and have played a very important role in managing recreational fisheries programs throughout the state.
Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center (BFRDC), located in the panhandle, Blackwater River State Forest (Santa Rosa County), was constructed in 1938 and has been producing fish for 75 years. In addition to largemouth bass, catfish and pan fish, Blackwater is Florida's primary facility for production of Atlantic and Gulf striped bass as well as sunshine bass (a striped bass x white bass hybrid developed by Florida fishery biologists). Most major rivers in north Florida have active release programs for Gulf striped bass (Ochlockonee, Blackwater and Yellow Rivers). In addition, the FWC stocks sunshine bass in the Escambia, Choctawhatchee and Apalachicola Rivers.
The Florida Bass Conservation Center (FBCC), located in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Sumter County, is the larger of the two hatcheries and is responsible for production and release of a variety of freshwater game fish throughout Florida, including Florida largemouth bass, sunshine and palmetto bass, black crappie, channel and white catfish, bluegill, and redear sunfish.
Most important of these is the genetically unique Florida largemouth bass, which is the most sought after game fish in the nation. A major function of the FBCC revolves around conservation efforts to ensure that all largemouth bass produced and released in central and south Florida are genetically identified as pure Florida bass. This involves a rather complicated process that we will be highlighting in future Hatchery Tracker issues in the near future.
The FBCC also has been involved in developing techniques to spawn Florida largemouth bass out of season, essentially doubling the annual largemouth bass production. The FBCC annually produces large numbers of larger-sized bass (4”) that are raised through the winter months and stocked in spring. These advanced-sized fish are reared intensively in high densities in tanks and fed an artificial diet that was pioneered at the FBCC. This diet was developed specifically for Florida bass to alleviate a form of liver disease that has plagued largemouth raised on more conventional artificial fish foods.
Visit our FWC website (http://MyFWC.com/fishing/freshwater/stocking/) to learn a little more of the role that hatcheries play in managing fisheries resources in Florida, and stay tuned for future editions of the Hatchery Tracker.
Rick Stout is the hatchery manager at the FBCC, and Dave Yeager is the manager of the BFRDC.