Largemouth bass fisheries get a helping hand from the AGFC

LITTLE ROCK, Ar (AGFC) - Arkansas's largemouth bass fisheries are getting a helping hand from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. So far this year, the AGFC has stocked over 1 million fingerling Florida-strain largemouth bass in Arkansas's public waters.

The fingerlings were produced at the Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery located on Lake Hamilton just south of Hot Springs. The Hulsey hatchery is the AGFC's only hatchery that produces Florida-strain largemouth bass, according to the hatchery's manager, Don Brader. "In three of the last four years over one million Florida bass fingerlings have been raised and stocked by the Hulsey hatchery," Brader explains.

Fingerling bass produced in 2009 averaged two inches in length and were stocked into 13 waterbodies including lakes Atkins, Chicot, Columbia, Conway, DeGray, Erling, Gurdon, Lester Sites Bois d'Arc, Lower White Oak, Marion McCollum Greenlee, Millwood, Monticello and Ouachita.

AGFC fisheries biologists, along with bass angling volunteers, distributed the fish into areas of good habitat around each lake by boat to increase their survival rate, the AGFC's black bass program supervisor Colton Dennis says. "The Brushy Creek arm of Lake DeGray and the Rabbittail/Buckville area of Lake Ouachita were stocked with approximately 100,000 Florida bass fingerlings each as part of an ongoing eight-year research project to introduce Florida bass genes into these populations," Dennis said.

In addition, 241 adult Florida bass previously used as brood stock at the Hulsey hatchery were distributed among lakes Atkins, Columbia, Conway and Lester Sites Bois d'Arc, Brader said. "These five year old brood stock ranging in size from 2 to 5 pounds were no longer needed on the hatchery for spawning purposes and will be replaced by younger fish currently maintained on the hatchery," he said.

Annual stockings of fingerling bass from the hatchery are necessary to maintain Florida genes in a lake's bass population. Florida strain largemouth bass under the right environmental conditions can exhibit faster growth rates than their northern cousins after the age of three. In addition, female Florida strain largemouth bass have the potential to grow to trophy size (greater than 10 pounds) in suitable habitats in Arkansas.