Largemouth Bass Genetics Policy
Microsatellite DNA analyses and other genetic techniques help identify stocks of hatchery bass.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) and scientific community consider Florida largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides floridanus to be genetically unique and naturally occurring within the peninsula of Florida. This was addressed in Florida’s Black Bass Management Plan that was adopted in June 2011, and progress is being made to protect the genetic integrity of Florida largemouth and other black basses within their native ranges.
Florida bass grow faster and behave differently than northern largemouth bass or their hybrids, making them the premier freshwater sport fish in Florida. By preventing introduction of northern genes when stocking Florida largemouth bass into its native range, the FWC will help preserve Florida bass and is enlisting anglers support to prevent contamination of pure stocks.
In July 2010, FWC passed a rule (68-5.002 (1)(r) F.A.C.) listing northern largemouth bass and their hybrids as conditional species. Consequently, northern largemouth bass and their hybrids cannot be possessed or transported south and east of the Suwannee River without a FWC Conditional Species Permit (68A.23.009 F.A.C.). Prior to the rule, relocation and stocking of largemouth bass by private pond owners and consultants, university researchers, local and out-of-state hatcheries, FWC, and anglers south of the Suwannee River had occurred in both private and public waters. Current research has documented that hybrid largemouth bass populations exist in some water bodies south of the Suwannee River where only pure Florida largemouth bass orginally existed. FWC scientists have documented the stocking of northern largemouth bass or their hybrids into private and public lakes south of the Suwannee River by private lake management companies, which was a key reason for passing the rule.
In December 2011, the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management imposed an internal position stopping state-owned hatcheries from stocking and relocating bass outside their native range. It includes stricter guidelines for the state, but ensuring offspring from broodstock are separated into four distinct genetic management units. This position provides a risk-based assessment used by FWC biologists when considering largemouth bass relocation both internally and when requests are received for permits from external stakeholders. In most cases, genetic testing is required to relocate or stock largemouth bass south and east of the Suwannee River. Genetic testing will help ensure that pure Florida populations will be maintained and that populations containing hybrid largemouth bass will no longer be contaminated. Education and outreach efforts are key to maintaining pure Florida bass populations in Florida. Anglers should not relocate fish they catch to other locations. Several private hatcheries in Florida are certified, so pond owners can purchase pure Florida bass. It is up to all of us to maintain the genetic integrity of Florida bass for the future benefit of our anglers.
For more information contact biologist: Bill Pouder, 863-648-3805; Bill.Pouder@myfwc.com.