I. NEW OPPORTUNITIES STRATEGIES
These action items will help identify new or special opportunities to create or substantially enhance black bass fisheries, and ensure FWC is proactive about opening new public fisheries and managing them for the public. New opportunities include newly created reservoirs, reclaimed phosphate or rock pits, private water bodies, water-level management (e.g., drawdowns, renovations), improving angler access (e.g., new boat ramp construction, boat ramp renovation/maintenance and creating fishing piers/boardwalks), fish management (e.g., stocking, special regulations, controlling the amount of fishing pressure, fish attractors), and habitat enhancement (e.g., aquatic plant management, dredging, scraping). The FWC will seek external partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders while exploring new opportunities within its own agency to enhance the effort. Successfully implementing new opportunities will require an aggressive, proactive, science-based approach that also involves local citizenry. These can also be categorized as habitat, fish or people management but those listed here emphasize new possibilities that do not currently exist or cannot be specifically anticipated.
- Pursue public access to reservoirs during their planning phase, and develop management plans and agreements with water management districts and the Corps of Engineers (COE) to produce appropriate trophy black bass fisheries.
Three Forks Marsh Conservation Area and Fellsmere Water Management Area are examples of planned reservoirs that could be filled by 2014 and provide an excellent largemouth bass fishery.
There is a growing understanding that there will be an increased need for municipal, agricultural and commercial water supplies. Florida's five water management districts, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Protection should balance these needs with the ecological needs of fish and wildlife. FWC staff is continuing to engage these managers to help ensure fish and wildlife are protected and to optimize recreational opportunities.
- Make it easy for the public to find places to fish and freshwater public access (e.g., ramps, piers, shoreline access) using electronic and print media.
FWC and partners can also provide via the Internet additional information such as available electrofishing data, creel summary, water quality data, tournament data, event schedules, and boat ramp amenities. FWC is currently developing a "Google Earth" database map of all public access points and visually verifying the information. Plans are to integrate this program into user-friendly mapping software and link other important information to those points. FWC is partnering with TakeMeFishing.org and "VISIT FLORIDA" to make this information available to a wider audience with less cost and via mobile applications (apps).
- Formalize partnerships with WMDs, federal, local, and state governmental agencies, and private landowners to enhance public access.
Increasing and enhancing freshwater fishing access is the most direct way to increase fishing opportunities and thus fishing effort, which was identified as a high priority by our stakeholders (DFFM Vision Document, 2009). The Small Lakes Management Committee (FWC) has identified a list of candidate lakes in each region, which are less than 1,000 acres that are without public access and have adjoining public land where access could be provided. The opportunity to secure public access is vital in providing future anglers access and increase fishing effort for bass. Florida has 7,700 lakes, but there is only public access to approximately 550 lakes. Many of the lakes in Florida are on private property. A "Share-a-Lake" program that provides incentives (e.g., tax relief, land management, lake management, and plant management) to private landowners in exchange for public access could provide new opportunities for black bass anglers.
- Help local communities to attract major bass tournaments by enhancing ramps and associated facilities that will benefit local economies and anglers.
Identifying and incorporating vital design elements into a "Bass Tournament Facilities Plan" will provide the blueprint for tournament friendly facilities on Florida's major systems and benefit anglers by providing greater access, facilities and parking.
- Implement complete de-water renovations on aging reservoirs and lakes with water control structures to stimulate trophy largemouth bass fisheries.
Reservoirs and other water bodies with stablilized water levels often lose habitat complexity, suffer sediment build-up and produce less trophy-sized largemouth bass as they age. Florida fisheries staff pioneered the use of drawdowns on lakes with water control structures, and the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources has demonstrated that regularly draining reservoirs, scraping/sculpting the bottom, adding fish habitat, re-filling, and stocking stimulates rapid growth of bass and results in high quality fisheries.
- Create contingency plans to enhance fisheries on water bodies that naturally experience rapid water level changes to provide long-term benefits.
After refilling, lakes such as Johns Lake, Orange Lake, and Lake Jackson in Tallahassee, which occasionally drain rapidly, offer new opportunities by providing optimum habitat and producing strong largemouth bass year classes. If prepared in advance, FWC has a unique opportunity to respond to natural events, such as sink hole lakes draining, or low-water conditions caused by droughts to enhance fisheries. Plans that can be implemented when needed will be prepared to dredge, scrape or sculpt substrates, to construct brush or rock pile fish attractors and to create fishing fingers or other shoreline fishing access. Biologists will draft plans for fish management actions such as stocking fish or special protective regulations to create and protect strong year classes of bass.
- Develop a network of special-opportunity trophy bass fishing areas, on water bodies not currently open to the public.
Special opportunity fisheries (similar to special-opportunity hunts on FWC's wildlife management areas), with limited access can provide a higher quality experience and generate stakeholder excitement. Incorporating limited access and/or closed seasons may help entice the WMDs, municipalities, counties or private landowners to be more willing to participate in the program. This would open new water bodies to the public on a restricted basis, and with intensive bass management protocols could result in special trophy fisheries.