Want to stock largemouth bass? Learn the rules
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
People often call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) because they want to stock their private ponds or
lakes with largemouth bass. Typically, they want to know where they
can get them and what kind of largemouth bass they can legally
The kind of bass depends upon where the stocking will take
place. Last year, the FWC passed a rule making it illegal to
possess or release any kind of largemouth bass in peninsular
Florida except pure Florida-strain largemouth.
The reason for the rule is to protect the genetically pure
Florida-strain largemouth bass, also called Florida largemouth
bass. This subspecies of largemouth bass is native only to
peninsular Florida (south and east of the Suwannee River) and is
the cornerstone of the state's billion-dollar black bass fishing
Florida residents who live south and east of the Suwannee River,
therefore, should purchase largemouth bass only from
aquaculturists, or fish farmers, whose fish have been genetically
tested and authenticated by the FWC as pure Florida largemouth
bass. So far, only two such fish farms in Florida possess
authenticated largemouth bass. To date, no out-of-state farms meet
the FWC requirements. The two farms in Florida are Florida Fish
Farms Inc. (352-793-4224) and Shongaloo Fisheries
(352-468-1251). Both fish farms are registered with the
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and sell
authenticated, pure Florida largemouth bass.
Nobody may possess northern largemouth bass or their hybrids
south and east of the Suwannee River, so Florida residents should
not purchase largemouth bass from the Florida Panhandle or an
out-of-state fish farm for transport into peninsular Florida.
Panhandle residents (north and west of the Suwannee River) may
possess intergrade or hybrid largemouth bass.
The release of nonnative northern largemouth bass and
intergrades occurs through stocking private ponds and lakes, but
sometimes these fish end up in Florida's rivers and lakes. The
problem is that the two subspecies - northern largemouth bass and
Florida largemouth bass - will readily interbreed. That's why
scientists say that stocking the northern largemouth is a
real threat to the pure Florida largemouth.
"Florida largemouth bass are adapted to Florida's subtropical
climate and typically spawn earlier in the year than northern
largemouth bass. If the northern subspecies or intergrade (hybrid)
bass spawn with Florida largemouth, their offspring may inherit
genes that reduce growth or survival, and other, less obvious
genetic problems," said Dr. Brandon Barthel, FWC black bass
geneticist. "If enough bass with northern genes spawn with Florida
bass, the unique characteristics of the Florida subspecies will be
Anglers come to our state from all over the world to catch
trophy Florida largemouth bass, so the FWC is doing everything
possible to protect the genetic purity of this ecologically and
economically important subspecies of fish.
To help do this, the FWC passed a rule (Florida Administrative
Code 68-5.002[r]), which went into effect July 1, 2010, making
northern largemouth bass and intergrades (hybrids) of northern
largemouth bass "conditional species" south and east of the
Suwannee River and banning possession or release in those
The northern-Florida intergrade cross of largemouth bass can
still be stocked in private waters north and west of the Suwannee
River, but pure northern largemouth bass cannot be stocked anywhere
in Florida. Both "gorilla bass" and "tiger bass" are intergrade
crosses of the largemouth bass and cannot be stocked south and east
of the Suwannee River.
Violation of this rule is a criminal offense and also may result
in federal prosecution under the Lacey Act if fish are transported
interstate. Civil penalties may be up to $5,000 per fish.
For more information about stocking largemouth bass, contact
Rick Stout at 352-732-1225.