Plan to stock Florida bass at Lake Guntersville progresses
Captain Mike Carter and wife Sharon, organizers of the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group, held a meeting in Scottsboro this past Sunday in which Carter advanced plans to go ahead with state-approved stocking of 50,000 Florida strain largemouth bass fingerlings into the north end of the lake next May.
The stocking will be entirely financed by local communities and private donors, with no state tax or license money involved, Carter said. He’s hopeful the infusion of new bass stocks will help to restore the lake to former glory as a fishing lake–it was once ranked as the top bass lake in the nation, but has dropped dramatically in recent years in the rankings.
Carter said he had hoped to get the stocking underway by fall to see earlier returns of catchable size fish, which will require at least two to three years from the stocking date, but the ADCNR district biologist Keith Floyd recommended that the stocking take place in late spring, when he said research indicates the tiny largemouths would have a better chance of not being eaten by other fish, and would also have a better chance to learn to feed themselves without immediately having to deal with the cold water of winter.
Carter said the group plans to put donated funds into a tax-deductable account, so that private parties who donate can get a tax deduction for their funding.
Carter said the fish would be stocked in the shallows of a number of feeder creeks. Though it’s sure that the majority will be eaten by other fish, it’s likely that enough will survive to have a major impact on the fishery in the future, not only with anglers catching the stocked fish, but with their contribution to the gene pool.
Florida bass are noted for growing faster and reaching much larger sizes that the northern-strain bass that are found naturally in the TVA lake system. Florida strain fish stocked in some California lakes have exceeded 20 pounds in recent years, and they regularly produce fish of 13 to 15 pounds from Texas lakes. Pure Florida’s are found mostly from Gainesville, Florida, southward–those in the northern part of the state are primarily intergrades with northern strain bass, biologists say.
Carter said he’s hopeful that the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group can become a continuing funding source for added stocking in the future, with donations allowing restocking every two to three years. The pure-strain Florida fish are obtained from a Montgomery hatchery that specializes in raising them for stocking in private ponds nationwide.
“It’s not just about fishing and fishermen,” says Carter. “When we have nationally-known fishing here, the communities around the lake make a lot of money based on tourism, property values go up, and the tax base grows a lot faster than it would otherwise–it’s a real investment in the future of our area.”
Visit the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group Facebook page here. Carter, who is an active fishing guide on the lake, can be contacted at 423-802-1362.