TrophyCatch Angler Recognition—Reward Yourself
TrophyCatch rewards anglers who document and release bass over eight pounds. The program has ecological, social, and economic benefits too.
Providing greater opportunities for trophy-size bass and promoting Florida’s exceptional largemouth fishery was an important component of the Black Bass Management Plan. Biologists, anglers and stakeholders worked together to create the plan, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved in June 2011. A result of the plan was creation of a program to encourage “recycling” and trophy bass documentation in return for sponsor-provided rewards.
The goal of TrophyCatch (TrophyCatchFlorida.com), which launches in October, is to establish Florida as the undisputed “Bass Fishing Capital of the World,” while promoting catch and release of trophy bass. Documenting trophy bass, encouraging their release and managing for them, based on the knowledge gained, will provide economic, ecological and social benefits.
TrophyCatch includes three tiers to encourage reporting and live-releasing bass heavier than eight pounds (Lunker Club) that are caught in Florida waters. Bass over 10 pounds (Trophy Club) that are caught, documented and released will receive greater rewards. Those heavier than 13 pounds will be examined by FWC staff to verify their condition (including genetic status) and entered into the Hall of Fame Club, making them eligible for the greatest prizes. TrophyCatch incentives such as free fiberglass-replica mounts (New Wave Taxidermy) for Hall of Fame fish, customized clothing from Bass King, gift cards (Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Rapala Lures), fishing trips and Fish-Photo Replica discounts will encourage anglers to recycle trophy bass. The World Fishing Network is partnering with the FWC to promote and document trophy bass (TrophyCatchFlorida.com). Sponsors Kissimmee CVB and Carls Van Rentals hope to drive angling traffic to central Florida. Just for registering, anglers are eligible for a 619 Pro Phoenix bass boat and trailer.
The biggest bass of the year will receive a Super Bowl-like ring from the American Outdoors Fund, and if it is caught in Osceola County, the Kissimmee CVB will award the lucky angler $10,000. In addition, a guide that helps them will receive $2,500.
States like Texas and California have imported Florida bass to improve their stocks, and Florida bass have been planted in other countries. Florida’s certified record is a 17.27-pound largemouth bass caught by Billy O’Berry in Polk County, in 1986. Because the state requires freshwater fish to be examined by a fisheries biologist and weighed on certified scales, Fritz Friebel’s 20-pound, 2-ounce bass from Pasco County, which was declared the world record in 1923, is an “uncertified” Florida state record. Unofficially, the certified state record has been surpassed several times, as documented by the IGFA’s 10-pound bass club.
BassMaster’s top 25 bass of all time include 20 fish from California, two from Florida, two from Japan and one from Georgia. In California and Japan, bass are nonnative imports that came from Florida. In Japan they are considered a nuisance. In California, the few artificial reservoirs yielding trophy bass were heavily stocked with trout, which are great forage for largemouth.
In Florida, black bass annually provide anglers more than 14 million days of healthy outdoor recreation and generate approximately $1.25 billion in economic impact (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006). The FWC’s management programs hope to increase the enjoyment for more anglers and thus provide an even greater tourism and economic bonus for Florida.
For more information, contact KP Clements, 352.978.7833; KP.Clements@MyFWC.com.