Black bass are the most popular recreational fish in the United States, and have some of the most organized and informed fishing clubs. Florida is the heartland for these feisty sport fish. In the Sunshine State, black bass include Florida largemouth, shoal, spotted and Suwannee basses. Scientists specializing in fish species (ichthyologists) will tell you they aren’t real bass at all, but rather members of the sunfish family that include crappie and bluegill. But anglers who have tussled with a Florida largemouth bass will insist they are the “reel” basses.
Florida produces many of the world’s premier bass fisheries, which is why bass anglers spend more than 14 million days here each year, which generates $1.25 billion for the state’s economy. With 3 million acres of freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and nearly 12,000 miles of rivers, streams and canals virtually all having bass in them, Florida is a natural Mecca for bass anglers.
The Florida largemouth bass is genetically unique, and is stocked in many areas of the world because of its potential for rapid growth to trophy size. Moreover, Florida has shoal, spotted and Suwannee bass, each of which exists in limited geographic areas and offers unique fishing opportunities. Programs such as the Black Bass Grand Slam, promoted in BassMaster Magazine, are drawing more attention to these limited populations, necessitating greater attention to conservation practices to ensure their sustainability. You can help by reporting your “Big Catch” bass with the Official ”Big Catch” Program Application.
Without a doubt, Florida has vibrant, widely dispersed populations of black bass, one or more species of which are available within a 30- to 60-minute drive from anywhere in the state, thanks to our having more than 7,700 named lakes. Catch rates and overall angler satisfaction remain high compared with other states.
Recent information indicates that several forces have subtly eroded Florida’s stellar freshwater fisheries and fishing industry – an economic engine worth some $1.5 billion to the state’s economy. Florida’s claim to its “Fishing Capital of the World” title is solid, but as with other states, fishing is not like “the good old days.” Urbanization and population growth threaten lakes, rivers and wetlands, while climate change bears an uncertain impact on freshwater habitat and black bass fisheries.
Although FWC and its predecessor agencies zealously managed Florida’s fish to ensure their survival and sustainable use, in 2010 it strove to work with anglers and stakeholders to connect the pieces into one cohesive management plan. The FWC as the agency tasked with managing the Sunshine State’s fisheries resources is finalizing an integrated, adaptive management plan for black bass that will position Florida as the uncontested Bass Fishing Capital of the World.
The long-term management plan for Florida bass species will be published and implemented this year. The plan’s goals are quality fisheries and increased opportunities for anglers to pursue trophy Florida bass. Based on public input the plan is being organized into new opportunities, habitat management, fish management and people management. A key component will be a new high-visibility TrophyCatch angler recognition program to promote effective catch-and-release of trophy bass and global recognition for the productivity of Florida’s bass fisheries.
Black bass fishing zones