Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Big mouths, big money

Florida has long been known as a place to catch world-class bass. In 2001, Kissimmee's Lake Tohopekaliga , or Lake Toho as it is commonly called, found its way into the record books when Dean Rojas caught a Bassmasters tournament-record five-fish limit totaling 45 pounds, 2 ounces in one day. Big money events, such as the 2006 Bassmaster Classic in Orlando, have solidified Florida's reputation as an international bass destination. But studies have shown that the average size of Florida's tournament bass have steadily declined over the past 30 years. "The state's population is going to double in the next 50 years," said Dale Jones, who leads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's effort to preserve the bass fisheries. "The pressure on the state's bass fisheries is only going to increase. We have to have a plan to meet those needs."

Florida's fish

The largemouth, or black bass, is the world's most popular sport fish. The species, Micropterus floridanus, grows big, fat and fast, which is why it has been exported around the globe.

But even though you can catch 10-pound largemouths in Japan these days, Florida is still ground zero when it comes to trophy-sized bass.

FWC officials estimate that nearly 1 million anglers in search of the legendary Florida "bucket-mouth" pump $1.25 billion into the state's economy each year.

Many homegrown and visiting anglers target "trophy" fish — those that weigh 8 pounds or more. But the state is also home to other bass species, including the Suwannee bass (M. notius), Spotted bass (M. punctulatus) and shoal bass (M. cataractae), which is only found in a small stretch of the Chipola River.

Threats to the fishery

In addition to the decreases in the size of the fish, the number of anglers has also dropped. Freshwater fishing license sales have steadily declined since the 1980s, though sales have stabilized in the past decade.

Some blame the declining interest in freshwater fishing to a shift in demographics and urbanization.

But as more communities move from being primarily rural to more residential, traditional bass habitat is being destroyed.

"Urban sprawl affects habitat and our watersheds," Jones said. "This, in turn, has an impact on the fishery."

Faced with myriad threats, the state is reaching out to stakeholders to help develop a long-range plan (2010-30) to manage its freshwater fisheries.

The FWC board met Thursday in Clewiston and approved a plan that would develop strategies to develop "quality" and "trophy bass" fisheries.

Size matters

This summer, an angler in Japan caught a 22-pound, 4-ounce bass that, if approved by the International Game Fish Association, would tie George Perry's 77-year-old largemouth bass record caught in Georgia.

Could an even bigger bass be lurking somewhere in one of Florida's more than 7,700 named lakes? Florida fishery managers hope so. It takes about 10 years for a bass to reach trophy size, so the state's plan will have long-term goals.

One option on the table is to identify and cultivate lakes that have good trophy bass potential. These lakes may have special regulations to help promote the growth of these big, attention-grabbing fish. Other lakes may be more inclined to produce lots of 3- to 5-pound bass, a "quality" fishery for most anglers.

But a major component of any new bass management plan is public input. Anglers can help state officials by going online at and offering their ideas.

"A big part of the process will be listening to the stakeholders," Jones said. "We encourage the public to participate in the process."

Big mouths, big money 12/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 11, 2009 11:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Scotty Bowman says 'it's about time' Andreychuk got HOF call


    For Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, Dave Andreychuk finally being part of a Hall of Fame class is especially gratifying.

    Scotty Bowman drafted Dave Andreychuk in the first round (16th overall) in 1982 and coached him the first five seasons of his career.
  2. Dave Andreychuk going into Hall of Fame (w/photo gallery)


    Dave Andreychuk said Monday began "business as usual."

    Dave Andreychuk battles Calgary's Andrew Ference during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
  3. UPDATE: Rays finalizing deal to get SS Hechavarria for 2 minor-leaguers


    UPDATE, 4:27: In making the deal, the Rays add an elite-level defender to an infield that could use the help. But it also raises a number of questions, such as will they now move Tim Beckham to 2B? Does this mean Matt Duffy is not coming back this season? Is Daniel Robertson or Taylor Featherston going to …

    Adeiny Hechavarria is a two-time Gold Glove finalist who could help settle the Rays sometimes leaky infield defense.
  4. Timmy Claus is coming to town


    The circus is coming to town.

    Well, close enough.

    Timmy the Tebow is coming to Tampa Bay.

    It’s true. At least it could be. St. Timothy has been promoted by the New York Mets to high Class-A Port St. Lucie. If he stays promoted, Tebow should be in Tampa Bay for eight games beginning August 10 …

    Coming soon: Tim Tebow will hit Tampa Bay in August.
  5. Ranking Malik Zaire among 2017's top transfer quarterbacks


    The Florida Gators' Malik Zaire is among many transfers who could become starters at their new school. Here's how he stacks up in our rankings of top transfer quarterbacks: