Time to Reconsider Bass Fishing
National Fishing and Boating Week celebrates popular and traditional outdoor activities that families turn to during summer vacations. It takes place the first full week of June every year. This year it’s June 6-14, so visit TakeMeFishing.org to see what opportunities might be available near you.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sweetens this family-friendly celebration by offering license-free saltwater fishing opportunities to residents and tourists during the first weekend (June 6-7) and follows up with license-free freshwater fishing the following weekend (June 13-14).
In Florida, the “Fishing Capital of the World,” the number of anglers and their importance to the state is amazing. Florida’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan indicates that 46 percent of residents fish. In addition, 22 percent of tourists said they fish while here. The last time national statistics were compiled in 2011, Florida attracted 1.2 million nonresident anglers, whereas the next highest state brought in less than a third that many. So there is little wonder why VISIT FLORIDA, the state tourism agency, also designates June as “Fishing Month.”
The Florida largemouth bass remains the most popular freshwater fish in North America. Each year, anglers spend more than 14 million days fishing for black bass just in Florida. Besides the memories generated by the fun and camaraderie involved in those trips, a lot of catching has been documented, and not just your run-of-the-mill couple-pound bass. In the past two years, TrophyCatch has recorded more than 2,000 bass over 8 pounds that were caught, documented and released to help FWC with this citizen-science, conservation program. Each verified catch earned a lucky angler at least $100 in Bass Pro Shop or similar gift cards, a Bass King shirt, other rewards and a certificate for their accomplishment.
Sign up for free at TrophyCatchFlorida.com to earn a chance to win a Phoenix bass boat package. While on the site, explore the photo gallery and search for catches by water body, county, angler or size class.
This quality fishing success does not happen without both great resources and responsible management. One example of this is the Black Bass Management Plan (go to MyFWC.com/Fishing then select “Freshwater” and “Black Bass Management”). This plan guides and informs many of the FWC’s freshwater fisheries programs.
“Our anglers helped develop the BBMP, and we are dedicated to implementing the plan the right way,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.
In Florida, black bass include largemouth, spotted, shoal, Suwannee and Choctaw basses. The largemouth bass is the most abundant and the only one that grows heavier than 8 pounds. The other species reside primarily in the Florida Panhandle and seldom exceed 4 pounds.
New black bass regulations are being proposed as a follow-up to the BBMP to provide optimal sustainable use of Florida’s bass fisheries, with an emphasis on production of high quality and trophy bass. Following a review of data from Florida lakes managed under special regulations and studies of bass regulations across the nation, FWC staff in collaboration with university researchers and public input developed an innovative proposal for consideration.
The FWC obtained opinions from nearly 8,000 anglers representing diverse fishing preferences. Based on biological realities and anglers’ preferences, the FWC developed a draft proposal (see bit.ly/BassRegs for updates and to add your opinion to both the overall Black Bass Regulations and the Other Riverine Black Bass Regulation Survey.)
“I think it’s the most progressive regulation for black bass in the USA,” said Mike Allen, professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida.
The draft proposal will be considered during the regularly scheduled FWC meeting June 23-25 in Sarasota and, if approved by the Commissioners, could be implemented next year (July 2016).
Suggested regulations would be simplified by removing fishing zones and many special regulations or specific Fish Management Area rules for black bass. The following would become the general statewide rule: A five-fish daily aggregate black bass bag limit. For largemouth bass: Only one could be 16 inches or longer in total length per angler per day, with no minimum size. For Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted basses, there would be a 12-inch minimum size limit, and only one could be 16 inches or longer in total length. In addition, a catch-and-release-only zone for shoal bass in the Chipola River between Peacock Bridge and Johnny Boy Landing will be considered.
Grab a friend and get out on the water to de-stress, connect with nature and have a good ole time. Whether you are in a boat or fishing from shore, always use common sense to remain safe. Find boating safety rules and advice at MyFWC.com/Boating (select “Safety & Education”). You probably will not even realize you are also burning calories, getting exercise and supporting conservation, especially when that next fish busts your lure.
Instant licenses are available at License.MyFWC.com or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “more news,” or bit.ly/FishBusters for more Fish Busters’ Bulletins. To subscribe to FWC columns or to receive news releases, visit MyFWC.com/Contact.