The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Florida Largemouth Bass Program had another great year of production for 2014. The program produced more than 1.8 million Florida bass, which allowed 31 lakes to be stocked. This year's production ranks as the second-best behind the record 2.2 million fish stocked in 2013.
The goal of the Florida bass program is to produce trophy bass for Oklahoma anglers. To do so, genetically pure Florida bass are stocked into the state’s lakes to influence the genetics of the native bass populations. Bass with Florida genes are able to grow larger more quickly than the native Northern largemouth bass. Except for one fish, every state-record bass since 1979 has been a Florida bass or a Florida hybrid bass.
Oklahoma’s current state record largemouth bass was caught in Cedar Lake in March 2013 and weighed 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces.
A committee of fisheries biologists chooses stocking sites based on many criteria. The committee considers the documented success in trophy bass production, as well as angler pressure. Also, lakes with better habitat for bass are more likely to be stocked than lakes where good bass habitat doesn’t exist. Senior biologist Cliff Sager said growing trophy bass in a particular lake “is an eight- to 10-year investment.” Therefore, the Wildlife Department concentrates on the waters that hold the most promise for producing trophy bass.
All the Florida bass the Department stocks are spawned at the Durant State Fish Hatchery. Most of the fish are raised there, but some of the fry are distributed to state hatcheries in Byron and Holdenville for raising. The state’s fourth hatchery at Medicine Park gets involved by helping to deliver FLMB fry and fingerlings to the various lakes for stocking.
This year’s above-average production of FLMB can be credited to better spawning and improved handling techniques being used by hatchery technicians. Improved techniques have allowed record fish production the past two years, and Ike McKay, project leader at the Durant State Fish Hatchery, credits “the commitment and cooperation of everyone involved.”
Sager said, “It truly is a coordinated effort to raise and stock that many fish over a short period of time and speaks to the dedication of the Wildlife Department to improve our fisheries resources.”
To see a list of the 31 lakes stocked with FLMB in 2014, go online to www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/surveys.htm and click on “2014 Largemouth Bass Stocking Report.”
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.