Effectiveness of a Catch-and-release Regulation for Largemouth Bass in a Florida Lake

The effectiveness of a catch-and-release regulation for largemouth bass (Mieropterus salmoides) was assessed from 1982 to 1987 at Webb Lake, Florida. The objective was to prevent rapid overharvest of bass and maintain high angler success rates in this new 158-ha lake. Prior to opening the lake to public fishing, experimental angling for largemouth bass resulted in catch rates (C/E) averaging 3.3 fish/ hour. During 30 months of public fishing, the average C/E dropped to 1.3 fish/hour. Decreases in largemouth bass biomass estimates, population density, and proportional stock density indicated that the largemouth bass population experienced high angling mortality during the first 6 months of public fishing. Few documented incidents of angler noncompliance were reported; however, it is possible that even low levels of illegal harvest, combined with hooking mortality, caused this decline. Public fishing pressure decreased after the first year, and the largemouth bass population recovered to levels documented prior to public fishing. The catch-and-release regulation was marginally effective since initial mortality was high and C/E decreased overall. The regulation provided the benefit of preventing rapid overharvest of bass that was likely to have occurred in the absence of harvest protection.

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