Courtesy photo Bernard Donnelly holds up his Hall of Fame Trophy Catch largemouth bass he caught in Columbia County. It's 13 inches long, weighs 17 pounds, one ounce. Anglers must tell Freshwater Fisheries coordinators where they caught their bass, details of the Ôhoney hole' will not released.
published: Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Casting for a winner
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- Florida anglers should prepare for a challenge, and they have their work cut for them.
According to sdfish.com, in 1932 George Perry landed the largest largemouth bass in the United States, while fishing in Georgia -- a 22-pound, 4-ounce monster. That record still stands.
Florida's record fish weighed 20 pounds, 1 ounce. Caught by Fritz Frielbel at Big Fish Lake in 1923, it stood as the country's record until Perry came along. It is still is the state's largest documented catch.
In October 2012, the Freshwater Fisheries division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission initiated its Trophy Catch Program aiming to lure anglers onto the water. The program has several goals: To break Perry's record, promote Florida's bass fishing and tourism, encourage conservation through catch-and-release fishing, and exciting younger generations to take up the sport.
Trophy Catch also adds vital information about the largemouth bass itself.
"It's really neat program," said Bill Pouder, administrator of Freshwater Fisheries in the FWC southeast region. "It's basically a program with incentives to get anglers out looking for fish 8 pounds and over. Part of the Black Bass Management Plan, the goal is to ensure Florida is the undisputed 'Bass Fishing Capital in the World.'
"There is a biological component," Pouder added. "Traditional, standardized samples do not pull in the bigger fish. But big fish are a good sign of a healthy lake, showing the right balance of water quality and vegetation. With this program, we can track which lakes produce the best and most fish. That way we can better manage fisheries in the future."
The rules of the game are straightforward.
First and most important, Pouder said, "the program is strictly catch and release."
Pre-register at www.worldfishingnetwork.com/florida/trophy-catch. Scroll down to the clearly marked icons.
There is no registration fee. Get a fishing license, go out and start flipping. Submit entries and that's it.
Bass fall into one of three size tiers called clubs. The lunker club bass are from 8 to 9.99 pounds; the trophy club from 10 to 12.99 pounds; 13 pounds or greater belong in the Hall of Fame.
To document lunkers and trophy fish the bass must be photographed on a scale with the weight readable, and photographed on a measuring board or alongside a ruler. The entire fish must be visible. Lunkers and trophy fish may be caught year round.
Rules for the Hall of Fame are stricter. Their weight and size must be documented by the FWC, so must be held -- alive -- until a coordinator arrives with a certified scale. Call (855) 358-7674 and a coordinator will arrive as quickly as possible.
Submissions of bass over 13 pounds may only be made from Oct. 1 thorough April 31. That is because summer is a stressful time for the fish. Any bass submitted outside those dates will be treated as the smaller class.
Anglers receive incentives, which rise in value with the size of the fish. They range from gift cards to tackle and more. Pouder said as more business partners sign onto the program the prizes will change, or become even more generous.
Everyone pre-registered is eligible for an end-of-the-year grand prize drawing of a bass boat, motor and trailer. Because the program began in October, the drawing occurs in 2013.
The entire state is taking part in the Trophy Catch program. Bass from any Florida lake are eligible. The Highlands County Tourism Development Council provided a grant for advertising costs outside the county.
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