Effectiveness of Slot-length Limits to Maintain an Arkansas Trophy Largemouth Bass Fishery Characterized by High Voluntary Release Rates by Anglers

Lake Monticello in southeastern Arkansas is a renowned destination for trophy-sized (≥3.63 kg) largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides; LMB). However, little analysis has been conducted on population characteristics of this population and the anglers fishing for them. Therefore, the size structure and potential harvest of the bass population was evaluated in the context of an existing 406-533 mm slot-length limit (SLL) and other potential SLLs. A total of 1023 LMB was collected using electrofishing during springs 2006-2007. Differences in growth were detected among gender with only one male aged above the slot. Modeling results suggested that alternative SLLs (457-559 mm or 483-559 mm) marginally increased the number of harvestable fish and number reaching trophy size while reducing the number dying within the slot. A 12-mo creel survey (n = 820 parties) revealed that 72% of anglers targeted bass, with most bass harvested (76%) below the slot. Voluntary release rates averaged 87% for bass and non-bass anglers. A mail-in survey of 249 anglers revealed most (77%) agreed or strongly agreed with catch and release fishing for LMB. These results suggested that education of anglers is needed about the importance of selective harvest to achieve fisheries management goals for improving trophy bass fishing. Given the obvious impact on the local economy, efforts needs to be taken to ensure that Lake Monticello remains a trophy LMB fishery in the future, as 89% of LMB anglers indicated they were fishing for trophy LMB.

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