Florida Black Bass Management Plan Survey Results
Fish Busters' Bulletin
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Media contact: Bob Wattendorf
Florida anglers want a homespun management plan for the most
popular freshwater sportfishes in America - the freshwater black
basses. Recent surveys indicated more than 94 percent of nearly
5,000 respondents feel such a plan is important, and nearly
two-thirds felt angler input was critical.
More than 10 million anglers target black bass nationally (the
group to which the Florida largemouth, Suwannee, shoal and spotted
basses all belong). Florida produces many of the world's premier
bass fisheries, with bass anglers enjoying more than 14 million
days fishing here annually. Although the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) zealously manages these fishes, a
variety of considerations caused us to decide it was time to seek
public input to help write and publicize a comprehensive, long-term
Black Bass Management Plan.
By June, we received 773 responses requested via presentations
at Florida BassPro Shops, the Tampa Tribune Expo, Florida
Sportsman's fishing/boating shows and fishing clubs, as well as
from news releases and posters encouraging completion of an online
survey. We also received 4,085 responses from a direct e-mail
solicitation of licensed freshwater anglers.
The surveys were not intended to provide scientifically valid
results with specific confidence intervals, but were an important
effort to communicate with members of the public who wish to
provide us with thoughts about bass fishing and how to manage the
resource. On June 15, we shared these results, at the Florida Bass
Conservation Center, with a Technical Assistance Group (TAG). The
TAG is composed of knowledgable Floridians representing diverse
stakeholder groups affected by the FWC's black bass management
Members of the group are Todd Kersey (Florida Freshwater
Fisheries Coalition President and manager of BassOnline.com), Chris
Horton (Conservation Director, BASS/ESPN), Dr. Mike Allen
(professor of fisheries science at UF), Gary Simpson (outdoor
writer and tackle shop owner), Shaw Grigsby (tournament fisherman
and TV personality), Jim Hoovan (President of Lakeland
Bassmasters), Mark Jackson (Central Florida Tourism Development
Council), Mark Detweiler (Big Toho Marina owner), Tommy Thompson
(Executive Director, Florida Outdoor Writers Association), Terry
Segraves (Kissimmee Visitors Bureau and fishing spokesperson),
Peter Thliveros (professional angler), and Herb Stephen (bass
guide). These individuals were asked to represent various segments
of the fishing community and to communicate with their peers to
ensure the FWC receives as much candid public opinion as possible
during plan development. They also were asked to consider opinions
of anglers who responded to surveys prior to rendering their own
input on what the plan should include. TAG meetings are publicized
on the MyFWC.com calendar and open to visitors.
Members of the public, who responded to the survey, as well as
everyone with a Florida freshwater fishing license, will receive an
invitation to participate in the next survey. Others can follow the
plan's development and comment at MyFWC.com/BassPlan_Survey.
Combined results from the first two surveys indicated the public
considers the most important factors for a successful fishing trip
to be: having a good time (97%), enjoying the scenery and time on
the water (95%), relaxing (94%), being safe (92%), being with
family and friends (87%), excitement (86%), catching big fish (72%)
or catching many fish (71%). A take-home message is the overall
fishing experience is as important as the actual catch.
Florida freshwater fisheries rated OK in terms of overall
satisfaction, with 84 percent satisfied or extremely satisfied with
their most recent trip (as individually defined by the previous
considerations) compared to a virtually identical 83 percent for
saltwater. Among anglers, who fished in freshwater elsewhere on
their last trip, 89 percent reported being satisfied.
Overall 12 percent of respondents used a fishing guide in the past
year, 32 percent fished in tournaments, and 25 percent were members
of bass clubs.
Similarly, 65 percent occasionally fished from shore, 30 percent
from kayaks/canoes and 88 percent from power boats.
The following are top issues (2,245 individuals thought the
top-ranked issue was critical and only 299 felt the bottom-ranked
one was) related to recreational bass fishing in Florida: 1) public
impacts from pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and water use; 2)
point source pollution; 3) poor angler ethics, including failure to
comply with laws; 4) water quality-nutrient loading etc.; 5)
development and population growth; 6) lack of conservation funding;
7) water quantity issues; 8) nonnative fish; 9) lack of access; 10)
muck deposits; 11) too much chemical control of aquatic plants, 12)
too many aquatic plants. Other issues were boating conflicts, bed
fishing, loss of interest in fishing, too many tournaments, climate
change and too many anglers.
Somewhat corresponding to the issues, anglers suggested the
following solutions are critical for FWC to pursue: 1) work with
DEP on water quality; 2) control non-native fish; 3) stock more
bass; 4) work with WMDs on water quantity; 5) conduct more habitat
restoration projects, 6) improve aquatic plant management; 7)
increase communications with anglers on laws, ethics, stewardship;
8) provide more boat access; 9) simplify fishing regulations; and
10) provide more shoreline, pier and boardwalk fishing. Other
considerations are to increase fishing education programs, provide
more law enforcement, create more customized bass regulations,
regulate tournaments more, protect Suwannee/shoal bass, provide
more fishing clinics/outreach events, engage bass clubs and
organized groups, implement more fishing rules and create more
Relative to how we develop this plan (in priority order), the
following are key points: focus on preservation of natural fish and
wildlife communities; obtain input from anglers; publicize a
long-term plan; obtain fishing-related business' input, and science
should be the principal consideration. Clear losers were economics
should be the principal consideration or continuing without a
formal plan is adequate.
It was also interesting to observe that the preferred statement
was: "I'd prefer to be able to catch and release three 3-pound
bass," indicating a quality emphasis (53%). "I'd prefer to
catch-and-release one bass over 10 pounds," representing a trophy
emphasis, was selected by 32 percent. Finally, "I'd prefer to be
able to catch and harvest five 1-pound bass," which is a
consumption emphasis, was chosen by 13 percent of respondents.
Consequently, the plan should address each type of opportunity,
since neither trophies nor harvest is a dominant issue.
After hearing this input, TAG members worked on developing a simple
goal and descriptive vision. Tommy Thompson and Herb Stephen both
pointed to the need to have a concise and pithy goal statement that
could be easily communicated. The team subsequently came up with
this preliminary goal: "Establish Florida as the undisputed Bass
Fishing Capital of the World."
Mike Allen stated "Most plans for other states are not specific
enough and actionable-they tend to feel good and be very generic.
We want ours to be more focused and definitive." With that in mind,
a tentative vision statement was crafted.
Vision: Improve Florida black bass populations and fisheries by
establishing quality habitats that provide anglers with more trophy
bass, more locations and opportunities with a higher probability of
catching quality bass, increase numbers of anglers and angler
effort, and achieve a higher degree of angler satisfaction. With
active support from the general and angling publics, achieve
worldwide public recognition and support for sustaining Florida as
the "Bass Fishing Capital of the World," based on great resources
and responsible management.
Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries,
thanked participants for their insights, including a lengthy list
of actions and ideas focused in areas of habitat, fish and people
management. The next step is for fisheries biologists to work with
the TAG team to create a complete draft plan and to share it with
the public for a second round of input and discussion in August.
Stay tuned to MyFWC.com/BassPlan_Survey and the Fish Busters'
Bulletins for more.
Black bass have long been the main attraction in Florida's fresh
waters. This 1961 cover was illustrated by Wally Hughes
(1918-2010), a renowned wildlife artist. He was best known for his
work as an illustrator, photographer, and art director for Florida
The resulting proposal will be shared with the public and, after
another round of public comment and refinement, presented to the
Commissioners at a public meeting to finalize the plan. It is
anticipated the plan will be accepted in early 2011, allowing the
FWC to pursue implementation with the ultimate goal of making
Florida the undisputed Black Bass Fishing Capital of the World.