While conducting lake surveys, we’re asked how to identify Florida bass? It’s not a scientific method, but fish with irregular spots along the dorsal fin and a blotchy lateral line, typically have Florida genes. Northern bass have a solid color, no spots, and clearly defined lateral line. Laboratory testing is the only sure answer.
Pure Floridas became the rage years ago with potential to reach super sizes. As first generations reached record classes, however, anglers experienced the too good to be true reality. Lunkers grew to anticipated sizes, but they demonstrated moody biting habits. Fishermen had to decide if they were willing to cast all day and risk not having a story at the coffee shop or compromise management philosophy to see action.
To address the issue, consultants developed two new management strategies—quantity and trophy. Lake owners were asked if goals included catching greater numbers of three to six pound fish or fewer numbers in trophy sizes. Folks who originally stocked pure Floridas, but desired higher catch rates, introduced Northern largemouth. Since Northern’s bite more aggressively, quantity programs benefited from a new strain with rowdy behavior. By crossing Floridas and Northerns, Northern bass also inherited genetic potential to grow larger. Quantity managers get more story telling time, but we still have hard-core anglers holding out for final bragging rights.
Transitioning to a cross strain, or F-1 program, is simple regardless how your lake was stocked originally. If the fishery is five-years-old or more, consider introducing new genes, even if you stay with a pure Northern or Florida plan. Future generations of bass benefit from new fish that contribute fresh, strong, healthy genetic qualities. Let’s visit about weights of your mature bass population. It may influence the size of new stockers.
Either species will succeed IF you have a strong food chain. One of our colleagues recently demonstrated the make or break influence of proper forage. He stocked two-inch F-1 largemouth in a hatchery pond. Their primary diet was fathead minnows and golden shiners. In six-months, those two-inch bass averaged 12-inches and weighed one and a quarter pounds. That’s a relative weight around 160 percent. Normal growth for the same period would be seven to eight-inches. Standard relative weight for a 12-inch bass is approximately 12-ounces. You’ve heard of stunted bass with heads larger than their body. These fish were plump. Their heads were dwarfed by body size. Although he recorded this growth in a controlled hatchery pond, you can achieve comparable results by stocking 10 to 20 bluegill per bass.
When developing a stocking plan, use a combination of the three species. You’ll eventually have F-1’s as Northern’s cross with Pure Floridas or other F-1’s. After five or so years, conduct genetic testing to assess brood fish. It may be time to introduce new bloodlines and refresh the gene pool. We can collect DNA samples and send to a lab for state-of-the-art genetic profiling.