Florida Fish Busters’ Bulletin

December 2009
Bob Wattendorf

FWC needs your input on the draft black bass management plan

Black bass are the most popular recreational fishes in the United States, but do you know what they are? In the Sunshine State, black bass include Florida largemouth, shoal, spotted and Suwannee basses. We are fortunate to live in a state known as the Garden of Eden for these feisty sport fish.

Scientists specializing in fish species 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.

In Florida, black bass annually provide more than 800,000 anglers with nearly 15 million days of healthy outdoor recreation and generate substantially more than a billion dollars in economic impact for Florida. So although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has always zealously managed these fish to ensure their survival and sustainable use, it is now time to pull together all the loosely connected pieces into one cohesive management plan.

Darrell Scovell, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, announced the framework for such a plan at the first public meeting of the rapidly evolving Florida Freshwater Fishing Coalition (FLFFC.org), in October in Orlando. The FWC’s Black Bass Management Plan will ultimately provide the blueprint to ensure Florida’s recognition as “The Bass Capital of the World,” according to Scovell. The meeting drew representatives from 17 fishery-dependent type organizations, businesses and groups who actively participated in the discussion and commended the FWC for its outreach effort.

Tom Champeau, an FWC fisheries expert and director of the South Region, introduced the concept at the meeting. He emphasized that the prominence of our bass fisheries cannot be taken for granted. Participation in freshwater fishing has been affected by societal changes related to urbanization and changing demographics. Freshwater fishing license sales have shown an overall decline since the 1980s, although sales have stabilized over the past 10 years. Development of land and water resources to support our current and projected population growth threatens lake, river and associated wetland habitats. The uncertain impacts of climate change on freshwater habitats and bass fishing require investigation and adaptive management.

To protect our valuable bass fisheries, the FWC plans to engage more stakeholders through a year-long process to develop a long-term (2010-2030) management plan for Florida bass species. This plan will provide strategies and programs to manage for high quality fisheries and increase opportunities for anglers to pursue trophy Florida bass.

“The FLFFC is ecstatic about being involved at the grass roots level in discussing Florida’s black bass management,” said Todd Kersey, CEO of the FLFFC. “The enthusiasm of the participants shows how important this is and the desire to see all aspects of management – from aquatic vegetation control, to habitat enhancement and stocking, to regulation management and enforcement – included in the plan.”

That is just what the FWC biologists wanted to hear, not only from the FLFFC, but from all of the nearly 1 million anglers who enjoy fishing in Florida for black bass. The plan will include all those aspects and more, but the final product depends on good, solid science, knowledge of local fisheries – including the constraints and opportunities – and what you, the public, want your fisheries resources to be. From creating relaxing, low-pressure aesthetic fisheries where natural scenery is the major draw, to fast-action schooling bass in the small to average size range, to limited-entry trophy bass fisheries, FWC biologists are willing to work with local communities to design a management plan that, with adequate funding and public support, can provide the sustainable fishing opportunities you want.

To see a draft of the plan and the PowerPoint presentation given at the FLFFC meeting, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select Black Bass Management Plan proposal. You’ll also have the opportunity to fill out a survey to provide the FWC with more information about what you think is important to having quality bass fishing in Florida. Make your voice heard, fill out the survey today.