Trophy bass tagging study

Biologists study the trophy-bass fishery in Florida

FWRI researchers designed the trophy bass tagging study to evaluate Florida’s trophy-bass fishery alongside TrophyCatch.

  • Researchers have tagged bass ≥ 8 lbs with high-reward ($100) tags across the state since 2011.
  • Information from each tag return is used to measure annual state-wide catch, exploitation, and release rates of trophy-size bass as well as measure awareness and participation rates of TrophyCatch.
  • Through five years of the tagging study, FWC researchers have tagged 836 trophy-size bass (136–195 per year) from 115 public waterbodies (42–56 per year) within Florida.
  • TrophyCatch awareness among anglers who have caught a trophy bass has steadily increased from 31% in Season 1 to 72% in Season 4.
  • TrophyCatch participation rate has also increase from 6% in Season 1 to 42% in Season 4.
bassTagging

Tagged largemouth bass

TrophyCatch is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) citizen-science and conservation program for trophy bass in Florida. Anglers participate by photo-documenting catches of trophy bass and providing data (i.e., length, weight, location, and date) to receive prizes from the program’s sponsors. Before TrophyCatch launched in 2012, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) researchers designed a tagging study to monitor its effects and performance. The trophy-bass tagging study started in 2011 and it has operated in tandem with TrophyCatch ever since. The objectives of the study have been to measure catch, harvest, and release rates in Florida’s trophy bass fishery at the state-wide level and measure TrophyCatch awareness and participation rates among anglers who have caught qualifying bass.

Since 2011, biologists from multiple divisions of FWC have worked to tag every bass 8 pounds or heavier that they sample during annual electrofishing surveys, which allows live-release of the bass. Each year, they have tagged between 136–195 trophy bass, and to date, the project has reached more than 115 public water bodies across Florida. The tags bear a unique ID code, a FWC telephone number, and a $100 reward for reporting catch of a tagged bass.

tagMap

Map showing waterbodies containing tagged fish

 

Trophy Bass Statistics

Catch Rates

  • About one in eight to one in four trophy bass were caught by anglers in the state each year. This range of catch rates for trophy bass is quite similar to catch rates for smaller or average-size bass in Florida, suggesting that trophy bass are no more elusive to being caught than smaller bass.
  • Just two to five percent of the trophy bass population are harvested each year. The tagging study confirmed the low harvest numbers by revealing 77 to 91 percent of tagged bass that were caught were released. These results reiterate that in Florida the catch-and-release ethic among bass fishermen is strong, especially when it comes to trophy bass.

TrophyCatch

  • Angler awareness of TrophyCatch has steadily grown from 31 percent in Season 1 to over 70 percent in Season 4.
  • The tagging study has shown that the number of tagged fish successfully submitted to TrophyCatch has increased from 6 to 42 percent.
  • Researchers estimated that 11 percent of the at-large tagged bass were documented by anglers in Season 4 of TrophyCatch, suggesting that the season total (~2,200 accepted bass) was 11 percent of the trophy bass population in Florida. This also indicates that there might have been 20 thousand trophy bass swimming in Florida during TrophyCatch Season 4.

Angler Data

  • Anglers consistently caught more tagged bass via artificial lures (74–92%) than on live bait (8–26%). Interestingly, that pattern was mirrored by TrophyCatch data.
    • This doesn’t necessarily mean that artificial lures are better than live bait at catching big bass. To identify which is more effective, researchers would also need to know how frequently lures (or live bait) are used across all bass fishing trips, regardless of whether a trophy bass was caught. Future angler surveys may help look into this.
    • More tagged bass were caught by anglers during general recreational fishing trips (75–85%), whereas 15 to 25 percent of the tagged bass were caught during tournaments each year. As most tournament anglers would argue, they are probably not less effective at catching trophy bass. Rather, tournament fishing trips represent a small fraction of overall bass fishing at the state-wide level.

Since the trophy bass tagging study was designed to measure aspects of TrophyCatch performance and effects, researchers hope to operate the study in tandem with TrophyCatch, together monitoring Florida’s trophy bass fisheries over the long term. To register and get familiar with the submission procedures for TrophyCatch, please check out the website today. It’s a great way to get involved in science and conservation for trophy bass in Florida. If you happen to catch a tagged bass, clip the tag close to the bass’s body and retain the external end for record keeping. It has a unique identification code and telephone number (850-363-6037) for reporting your catch and collecting the tag-return reward.



FWC Facts:
If you see a sawfish, please report your sighting to Sawfish@MyFWC.com and help the FWC’s research efforts.

Learn More at AskFWC