(1.3) BASS: Florida Black Bass Fishing Regulations Is It Time For A Change?
Florida Black Bass Fishing
Statewide Bag and Length Limit Regulations
Is It Time For A Change?
An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
My Ideas for Changes to the Since-1992 Black Bass Daily Bag and Length Limit Regulations were Originally Proposed to the FWC: 09 June 2010 (see far below)
This Webpage Created: 08 March 2013
This Webpage Last Revised: 08 July 2016
NOTE: Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!
JULY 8, 2016 UPDATE:
Ocklawahaman is very pleased to announce that on July 1, 2016 the new
BLACK BASS daily bag and size limit regulations went into effect in Florida!
Sign posted at an Ocklawaha River boat ramp
FEBRUARY 12, 2016 UPDATE:
Ocklawahaman is very pleased to announce that on February 11, 2016 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
approved the new BLACK BASS daily bag and size limit regulations which will go into effect on July 1, 2016!
At its meeting Thursday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved sweeping changes to streamline bass regulations and increase effectiveness. Commissioners meeting at the Florida Institute of Public Safety near Tallahassee approved implementation of new black bass conservation measures, which will go into effect July 1.
Anglers will be allowed to keep smaller, more abundant largemouth bass. Length limits for black bass species will be changed and many specific rules for different water bodies will be eliminated.
“The intent is to simplify existing rules and increase abundance of larger bass statewide,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.
Black bass are the most popular group of sport fish in North America. In Florida, they include largemouth bass and more specifically the genetically unique Florida bass that is renowned for its trophy potential. Other black bass species in Florida include Suwannee, shoal, spotted and Choctaw basses that thrive in the northwest areas of the state, primarily in rivers.
Black bass regulations have evolved over the past century as scientists learn more about the species, their habitat requirements, population dynamics and angling impacts. The FWC has been a leader in determining better ways to manage harvest not only with hands-on experimentation but also by monitoring successes and failures of bass regulations in Florida and other states and evaluating the results. Integrating social science with biological research allows the FWC to develop measures that are justified biologically while accommodating angler opinions, attitudes and behaviors.
After July 1, the new rule will eliminate the three zones that currently regulate bass harvest along with 42 site-specific regulations for largemouth bass. This simplification has been a long-standing desire of anglers and resource managers.
Anglers may still keep up to five black bass (all species combined) of any size, but only one bass 16 inches or longer in total length may be kept per angler per day. For Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted basses, the current 12-inch minimum size limit remains in effect, but there will be no minimum length limit on largemouth bass. In addition, the proposed changes include a catch-and-release-only zone for shoal bass in the Chipola River.
Anglers are practicing voluntary catch-and-release at record levels. While reduced harvest of large bass is beneficial, allowing more bass under 16 inches to be kept may improve some fisheries by reducing competition so other individuals grow faster and larger.
(Originally Posted in 2013)
For over 23 years now from 1992 to 2016, Florida -- at least in the Tallahassee area to the Ocala area northern half of the state where Ocklawahaman fishes -- has had this same general statewide black bass daily bag and length limit:
5 Black bass (largemouth, Suwannee, spotted, and shoal bass, individually or in total), only one of which may be 22 inches or longer in total length.
-- South and east of the Suwannee River...black bass less than 14 inches in total length must be released immediately.
-- In the Suwannee River..., areas north and west of the Suwannee River, and in any tributary river, creek or stream of the Suwannee River: black bass less than 12 inches in total length must be released immediately.
Since 1965 when I first started freshwater bass fishing in Florida, I have kept for eating probably a couple of thousand black bass. Skinned bass fillets taken from cool flowing waters, especially, are gourmet eats. My family and I enjoy them but we also like bream (sunfish), black crappie (speckled perch), and catfish fillets as well. Very rarely have I ever kept any largemouth bass less than 12 inches or longer than 17 inches. Experience has taught me that the best eating-size bass are those from 12 to 16 inches in length. This has been my personal slot limit whenever and wherever legal. And I’ve only kept one trophy largemouth bass, nearly 26 inches long, for mounting while releasing hundreds of 17 to 25-inch long largemouth bass.
The 14-inch minimum-size limit since 1992 for angler harvest of largemouth bass from the Ocklawaha River basin including Rodman Reservoir (a.k.a. Rodman Pool or Lake Ocklawaha) may have negatively affected the quality of its bass fishery. An Ocklawaha River 14-inch long female legal keeper-size bass will probably be from 3 to 4 years old (males may take 2 more years to reach 14 inches). 20-inch long females likely are 6 to 7 years old and males almost never reach 20 inches in length. 17-inch and longer bass (which are almost all females) are being kept for eating instead of 12 and 13-inch fish (maybe half of them would be males) which are protected by the 14-inch minimum length law. If the only bass caught by an average fisherman all day that is 14 inches or longer measures 17 to 21 inches (most likely a female) -- It will probably be kept -- while perhaps 2 or 3 or more bass at 12 to 13.75 inches (more likely to have included males) would have been released earlier.
After much consideration during the 23 years+ of our present black bass daily bag and length limit regulation, I have come to this conclusion regarding our Florida trophy bass problem. The guy, in the canoe or johnboat, who keeps up to five 12 to 13-inch bass a day (more likely to include males) to eat is not causing our lunker bass deficit. But the guy who is keeping more than one 17 to 22-inch (or longer) black bass a day possibly is!
Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca, in order to improve the trophy Florida largemouth bass numbers situation while also rewarding the regular guy (or gal) angler with some gourmet victuals to bring home periodically to their family to help justify their bassing-fever time and money, would offer that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) should amend the general STATEWIDE Black Bass daily bag and length limit to a simple PROPOSED REGULATION as follows:
5 Black bass (largemouth, Suwannee, spotted, and shoal bass, individually or in total) per day,
only ONE of which may be 16 inches or longer in total length with NO minimum total length.
VISIT THE FOLLOWING LINKS:
Please read the following excerpt from the "Ask Your Biologist" page (41) of the
March-April 1990 issue of Florida Wildlife magazine
published by the old Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission:
Dear Fisheries Biologist,
I recently moved to Florida from a northern state, and I’m surprised to find your agency doesn’t have a statewide minimum size limit for largemouth bass. Wouldn’t a 12-inch minimum size limit improve fishing here?
A New Florida Resident, Lake Placid
Dear New Resident,
The idea that a 12-inch minimum size limit on largemouth bass would improve fishing is one of the most common misconceptions among Florida anglers. Although this type of regulation is a fairly standard management practice in other states, particularly in the northern part of the country, there is relatively little biologically sound application for it here.
Many local fishermen seem to think that by protecting smaller bass with a minimum size limit, more young fish will survive, eventually resulting in a "bigger and better" bass population. Florida fisheries biologists are especially concerned with protection of larger bass. Even though the 12-inch minimum size limit may be necessary in other states, environmental conditions and biological considerations of bass populations in Florida are extremely different.
The use of minimum size limits is generally a viable bass management technique where growth rates are slow and production, or recruitment rates are low. These two conditions are not typical of Florida waters, however. Because of Florida’s sub-tropical climate, fish continue to grow throughout most of the year, and due to usually good spawning success, productivity is very high. Compared to northern conditions, bass in Florida grow much faster and typically reach a length of 12 inches in about two years. Therefore, when these smaller bass are removed by anglers, they are replaced fairly quickly. Most of Florida’s size restrictions on bass favor the protection of larger and older fish which obviously take much longer to replace when harvested.
In effect, a voluntary or self-imposed minimum size limit is now being practiced by fishermen on many Florida waters. Creel surveys on these areas have documented that anglers may commonly release 80 to 90 percent of bass smaller than 12 inches, even in the absence of a legal requirement.
Some concern even exists among Florida biologists that protection of smaller bass may have negative effects on the overall bass fishery. By unnecessarily restricting harvest of small bass, their numbers may increase to undesirable levels, causing excessive competition for available food. When this occurs, growth rates are slowed and the size structure of the population may become dominated by small bass. Low-quality fishing and decreased angler satisfaction are the eventual results.
Fishermen should realize that an exceptionally wide range of biological conditions exists in Florida. Population dynamics of bass fisheries can vary greatly between water bodies that may be only short distances apart. Therefore, a single statewide size regulation could not be justified biologically or expected to produce consistent results. In the future, as additional size restrictions are carefully implemented, they must be designed to meet the specific needs of individual water bodies in order to provide the best chances for success. Although a 12-inch minimum size limit may have some specific use on a very limited number of Florida waters, it is likely that this particular restriction will be a poor management choice for the vast majority of bass populations in our state.
South Region, Lakeland
Phil Chapman is the research project leader for the Commission’s Sportfish Enhancement Project.
MY EMAIL to FWC:
June 9, 2010
Tom Champeau, Division Director
Freshwater Fisheries Management
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
620 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399‐1600
RE: FWC Draft Proposal for a Long-term Black Bass Management Plan for Florida 2010-2030.
Paul Nosca’s proposed general STATEWIDE Black Bass daily bag and length limit plan.
Dear Tom Champeau:
Since 1992, some 18 years now, Florida has had this same general statewide daily bag and length limit (at least in the Tallahassee to Ocala northern half of the state where I fish):
“5 Black bass (largemouth, Suwannee, spotted, and shoal bass, individually or in total), only one of which may be 22 inches or longer in total length...
-- South and east of the Suwannee River...black bass less than 14 inches in total length must be released immediately.
-- In the Suwannee River..., areas north and west of the Suwannee River, and in any tributary river, creek or stream of the Suwannee River: black bass less than 12 inches in total length must be released immediately...”
Since the mid-1960’s, when I started seriously bass fishing in Florida, I have kept for eating well over a thousand largemouth bass (but only one each shoal and Suwannee bass from this state [for testing] -- I consider them as too rare of a native species to fillet). Skinned bass fillets taken from cool flowing waters, especially, are gourmet “eats.” My family and I enjoy them but we also like bream, catfish, and black crappie (speckled perch) fillets. Very rarely have I ever kept any largemouth bass less than 12 inches or longer than 17 inches. According to my long experience, the best “eating-size” largemouth bass are the 12 to 16 “inchers.” This has been my “personal slot limit” whenever and wherever legal. And I’ve only kept one trophy largemouth for mounting, nearly 26 inches long, while releasing perhaps hundreds of 17 to 25-inch long largemouth bass.
After much consideration during the 18 years of our present Black Bass daily bag and length limit regulation, I have come to this conclusion regarding our Florida trophy largemouth “problem.” The guy, in the canoe or johnboat, who keeps up to five 12 to 13-inch largemouth bass a day to eat is not causing our “lunker” bass deficit. But the guy who is keeping more than one 17 to 22 inch (or longer) Florida largemouth bass a day probably is!
“Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca, in order to improve the trophy Florida largemouth bass numbers situation while also rewarding the “regular guy/gal” angler with some gourmet victuals to bring home periodically to their family to help justify their “bassing fever” time and money, would offer that the FWC amend the general STATEWIDE Black Bass daily bag and length limit to a simple regulation as follows:
“5 Black bass (Florida, largemouth, Suwannee, spotted, and shoal bass, individually or in total) per day, only ONE of which may be 16 inches or longer in total length with NO minimum total length.”
Paul Nosca could “live” with a daily bag and length limit of only ONE 17 inches to 22 inches long but 16 inches would be a better regulation because I want there to be more largemouth bass that make it to the 24 to 26 inches long that a black bass requires, by my research, to be equal to 8 to 10 pounds or heavier!
Paul “Ocklawahaman” Nosca
Data Processing Administrator (Retired),
Florida Department of Financial Services
& Veteran, Finance Corps, United States Army
End of MY EMAIL to FWC
REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2016. "Florida black bass fishing regulations is it time for a change?" webpage report. "Paul Nosca's bass fishing photos" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.