Use of a Female-only Stocking Strategy to Establish a Trophy Largemouth Bass Fishery in a Georgia Small Impoundment

Anglers have become increasingly interested in pursuing trophy largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), but creating and maintaining such fisheries are often challenging. We used a low-density stocking of female-only largemouth bass in combination with forage species stocking and a catch-and-release regulation to create a trophy fishery in a 43-ha Georgia impoundment. Initial stocking of age-1 female largemouth bass occurred in spring 2005, and the population was dominated by fish ≥457 mm total length (TL) within four years. A total of 180 largemouth bass were collected in 2012; 34.4 % exceeded 3.6 kg and 8.8 % exceeded 4.5 kg. Both angling and electrofishing caught individuals ≥457 mm TL, but electrofishing collected a broader size range of bass including fish ≤237 mm TL. Size structure of largemouth bass was larger in angling than electrofishing samples in spring, but was similar between gears for bass > 457 mm TL. Angler catch rates of trophy largemouth bass were high, taking an average of only 7.35 angler-h to catch a 3.6-kg fish. Growth was fast, as female largemouth bass reached 457 and 508 mm TL in 2.59 and 3.69 years, respectively. Mean relative weight across all size groups was 119. By the end of the study, density of trophy (> 3.6 kg) largemouth bass in the impoundment was estimated to be 1 fish 0.69 ha -1. Also, females still outnumbered males 6.9:1 at the conclusion of this study, despite incidental male introductions through time. Thus, a program designed to stock females exclusively appeared to be a viable option to keep largemouth bass densities low and produce a high number of trophy bass. This strategy accommodates anglers that have a high voluntary release ethic, producing a largemouth bass population with low recruitment and fast growth without requiring high harvest.

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