About the Florida Bass Conservation Center

Annual production goals are:

  • 1 million advanced fingerling bass
  • 1.5 million normal fingerling bass
  • 250,000 sub-adult channel catfish
  • 1 million striped and sunshine bass fingerlings
  • 3 million bluegill and/or redear sunfish fingerlings

Planned production is 6.75 million fish; nearly triple the old Richloam Hatchery average of 2.3 million.  (Note 2007-08 was the first year for FBCC full-production).

Growing Fish Out

The 63 existing ponds hold 48 acres of water and are from 0.25 to 1.5 acres in size. The 36-year old plumbing system was completely revamped  to conserve water and new state-of-the art raceways installed.  The enclosed raceways allow more fish to be raised per gallon, at a much lower cost per fish.  Use of raceways also reduces predation, improves feed conversion, saves water and energy and allows better control of parasites and diseases.

Stocking Public Waters

Historically, Florida lakes had sufficient water quality and abundant aquatic vegetation to support thriving populations of Florida bass.  Reproduction was more than adequate to replace what was harvested by anglers and natural mortality.  Development, agricultural runoff, drained wetlands, and stabilized water levels have eliminated vast areas of spawning habitat.  The "bottleneck" to bass survival seems to be the early months until they are 6" to 10" long.  Consequently, stocking advanced fingerlings can avoid this high mortality period and result in successful recruitment of bass to quality sizes.  Recovery from drought and periodic fish kills also generate increased need for public stockings.

On-line Bass Data

Developing an on-line data base of  information about Florida bass will be a high priority.  The data base will include not only highly technical information of use to fisheries biologists, hatchery managers, geneticists and veterinarians, but also information that will be very useful to anglers and reporters.

Visitor's Center

A public education facility will give citizens information about bass, freshwater fishing and aquatic habitat issues, as well as providing a sense of public ownership.  Ultimately, the visitor's center may include how-to fishing classes and become a tourist destination helping Sumter County's economy.

Research Grants

Another innovative aspect of the FBCC will be that it will play host to visiting researchers and provide grants for research to be conducted by universities, other agencies and the private sector.  This approach will allow us to keep staffing to a minimum and yet address some of the highly specialized research questions using the best available experts.  The Wildlife Foundation of Florida, a public support organization, will provide a clearing house for these grants.

Stocking Evaluation

The FBCC will conduct thorough evaluations of all stocking programs to optimize the efficiency with which fishes are stocked.  Critical issues include timing and size at stocking.  Young predators need to be stocked when there is an abundance of appropriately sized forage.  This allows them to get a quick growth spurt which seemingly enhances their survival and overall growth performance for life.  However, more research is needed to refine and prove these theories.

Habitat Optimization

Overall fisheries management requires three components:  habitat management (e.g., water quality, aquatic vegetation), fish population management (e.g., genetics, stocking, disease control), and people management (e.g., education, outreach and regulation management).  Of these, habitat is the most important.  The FBCC will play a role in determining the exact habitat requirement of various sport fishes, especially black bass, and enhancing the habitat to ensure successful stocking and overall management of the fisheries.

Bass Research

Florida bass are currently recognized as a unique subspecies of bass that is well-adapted to the warm waters and an early
spawning season in Florida.  Some scientists even believe they should be classified as a different species.  In addition, Florida has a unique black bass called the shoal bass found no where else but here. The Suwannee bass  is only found  in Florida and south Georgia.  And we also have spotted bass.  The genetics and life history requirements of these fishes need to be more thoroughly studied and management programs established to ensure their survival.  Other research needs involving enhancing stocking success and protecting native fishes from parasites and diseases will be pursued.

Ensuring the Future

The overall goal of the FBCC is to help the Division of Freshwater Fisheries meet it's goal of  providing "optimum-sustained use" of Florida's aquatic resources.  Customer satisfaction is the measure of attaining that goal, and we are certain that the FBCC will be a cost-effective and efficient way of bringing many more smiles to the faces of Florida anglers in the future.

Moreover, to bring the full vision to reality, the agency must find matching funds from the private sector for the Visitors Center.  Individuals can donate directly to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and should indicate the money is for the FBCC, or they can purchase fabulous Glen Lau photo prints and videos at a great price, with all the profit going to the FBCC.  Organizations that would like to help sponsor the FBCC should contact Bob Wattendorf at 850/488-0520, or e-mail him.

The address for the Florida Bass Conservation Center is:
3583 CR 788
Webster, FL 33597
Phone:  352-583-4518

FWC Facts:
Our bass fisheries provide significant value to our state. Ensuring healthy lakes and rivers benefits many species of fish and wildlife as well as trophy fisheries.

Learn More at AskFWC