bass is indisputably the most sought-after freshwater game
fish in North America, and this species commands the attention
of resource management agencies primarily as a result of its
recreational fishery value. Largemouth bass are an important
predator species in the fish communities they inhabit. Wherever
they are present, the condition of the bass population usually
affects the overall quality of fishing more than any other
given water body where bass are sought by fishermen, fishery
managers must consider questions such as whether the public
wants larger (but fewer) bass or more numerous (but smaller)
bass. Both the number of fish caught and size of those fish
are important to most fishermen, so a well-planned management
program usually tries to find the best balance of these two
If a given
reservoir can produce 40 pounds of bass per acre per year,
fishery managers must try to decide whether the public would
prefer four 10-pound bass or forty 1-pound bass from that
acre of water, or some combination. They also must consider
how many people will have to share this 40 lbs of bass. Finally,
they must develop a management plan to try to attain this
the most common question heard by fishery managers is "why
can't I catch bigger bass?" One or more answers may be
involved. Overfishing is a common condition for largemouth
bass populations. Situations arise where no bass survive long
enough to get very large. Underfishing may occasionally be
implicated when food is limited and bass become too crowded
to grow to larger sizes. In some cases, large bass are present
in the population but difficult to catch; a different angling
method is usually needed to accommodate the different feeding
preferences of larger bass.
of fishery management tools are available to biologists, but
there are no "cookbook" formulas for good bass management.
Growth rates, reproductive success, natural mortality, food
habits and fishing pressure can all differ between different
habitats. A management strategy that produces good results
in one area may have no effect at all in another. For this
reason, it is usually difficult to apply management tools
on a state-wide basis.
situations, slot limits are used in managing
bass populations. Slot limits are based on the principle that
bass populations exhibit different habitat requirements during
different phases of their life histories. Slot limits focus
on protecting one segment of the life history which can influence
overall fishing success.
bass are usually prolific enough to accommodate natural mortality
and fishing mortality, since fishing mortality normally takes
the place of natural mortality under good management. Minimum
size limits become important, however, when higher
levels of reproduction are required. Unfortunately, strong
winds or a rapid drop in temperature during spawning can wipe
out an entire year class regardless of measures taken during
the previous year to protect broodstock.
of creel limits is to prevent the harvest
of too many fish at once, allowing more fish to reach larger
sizes. They also serve to distribute the potential catch more
widely among fishermen. In Louisiana, research suggests that
97% of all freshwater anglers fail to catch 8 bass per day,
so lowering the creel limit for bass would reduce catch very
little under normal conditions.
seasons are designed to reduce harvest in general,
so they are most effective when applied to periods of high
fishing pressure. Although they are sometimes imposed during
spawning seasons, the same loss to the reproducing population
occurs whether a fish is removed during spawning, three weeks
earlier, or three months earlier.
bass have been widely stocked outside of their natural range
for their trophy potential. Much of their tendency to reach
trophy weights is the result of a heavier body for a given
length. Several studies suggest that their average growth
is not significantly superior to our native largemouth during
first few years, but they exhibit more variation in growth.
After a number of years, trophies are produced from these
florida stockings, but only a few individual fish actually
reach trophy sizes. Research suggests florida bass exhibit
poorer survival in cold winters and are harder to catch than
our native largemouth. These traits are passed along to some
degree in their offspring with native bass, but so is their
tendency to produce trophy fish.
of largemouth fishing in Louisiana is ultimately the anglers'
responsibility. State agencies can perform research, develop
recommendations, and impose rules and regulations but if they
are not accepted and adhered to by the fishing public the
whole process becomes a waste of time.