Bass Study on Pinellas County’s Lake Seminole Receives Second Stocking

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will stock 19,000 hatchery-reared largemouth bass, implanted with coded wire tags, in Pinellas County’s Lake Seminole May 28. The lake is the scene of a unique research project that compares growth and survivability rates of stocked bass with those of wild largemouths.  

Last fall, an initial stocking of 7,000 fish took place in the 700-acre lake. The study will compare survival rates between the fall and spring stocking. The information will help guide future management decisions on the lake. 

“The ultimate goal of the study is to improve the survival rate of hatchery-reared largemouth bass, while enhancing the lake’s fishery,” said Bill Pouder, FWC fisheries biologist. “Our studies indicate Lake Seminole has a huge forage base, capable of supporting a much larger bass population.”
The FWC and the University of Florida have teamed up for the research project. FWC biologists will be sampling the lake and measuring growth rates at predetermined intervals. A special wand that can detect the tiny, metal tags will be used to separate stocked bass from wild ones.

Bass for the study were produced at the FWC’s Florida Bass Conservation Center, Richloam Fish Hatchery in Webster. These fish are the same genetic strain of Florida largemouth bass found locally, which also should aid in improving survival. Stocked bass range in size from 2 to 4 inches.

Historically, largemouth bass have been cultured to fingerling sizes and stocked when they reach about 1.5 inches long. Stocking larger fish will enable them to feed on the high abundance of prey in the lake, which should increase survival. Because of fast growth rates of these bass, stocked fish should be of harvestable size – about 14 inches – by next year.

In spite of the advantages of stocking larger bass, producing them for stocking poses some significant challenges. In the mid-1990s FWC fish hatcheries developed techniques to train fingerling bass to eat commercial feeds. Unfortunately, there were no commercial diets available that met the specific nutritional needs of warm-water largemouths.  The FWC enlisted the help of Dr. Paul Cardeilhac with the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville to develop a specific diet for hatchery-raised Florida largemouth bass. This nutritional work with largemouth bass represents the only work of its kind and ultimately may be used at warm-water fish hatcheries throughout the United States.