Annual production goals are:
- 1 million advanced fingerling bass
- 1.5 million normal fingerling bass
- 250,000 sub-adult channel catfish
- 1 million striped and sunshine bass
- 3 million bluegill and/or redear sunfish
Planned production is 6.75 million fish; nearly
triple the old Richloam Hatchery average of 2.3 million.
(Note 2007-08 was the first year for FBCC full-production).
Growing Fish Out
The 63 existing ponds hold 48 acres of water and
are from 0.25 to 1.5 acres in size. The 36-year old plumbing system
was completely revamped to conserve water and new
state-of-the art raceways installed. The enclosed raceways
allow more fish to be raised per gallon, at a much lower cost per
fish. Use of raceways also reduces predation, improves feed
conversion, saves water and energy and allows better control of
parasites and diseases.
Stocking Public Waters
Historically, Florida lakes had sufficient water
quality and abundant aquatic vegetation to support thriving
populations of Florida bass. Reproduction was more than
adequate to replace what was harvested by anglers and natural
mortality. Development, agricultural runoff, drained
wetlands, and stabilized water levels have eliminated vast areas of
spawning habitat. The "bottleneck" to bass survival seems to
be the early months until they are 6" to 10" long.
Consequently, stocking advanced fingerlings can avoid this high
mortality period and result in successful recruitment of bass to
quality sizes. Recovery from drought and periodic fish kills
also generate increased need for public stockings.
On-line Bass Data
Developing an on-line data base of
information about Florida bass will be a high priority. The
data base will include not only highly technical information of use
to fisheries biologists, hatchery managers, geneticists and
veterinarians, but also information that will be very useful to
anglers and reporters.
A public education facility will give citizens
information about bass, freshwater fishing and aquatic habitat
issues, as well as providing a sense of public ownership.
Ultimately, the visitor's center may include how-to fishing classes
and become a tourist destination helping Sumter County's
Another innovative aspect of the FBCC will be that
it will play host to visiting researchers and provide grants for
research to be conducted by universities, other agencies and the
private sector. This approach will allow us to keep staffing
to a minimum and yet address some of the highly specialized
research questions using the best available experts. The Wildlife Foundation
of Florida, a public support organization, will provide a
clearing house for these grants.
The FBCC will conduct thorough evaluations of all
stocking programs to optimize the efficiency with which fishes are
stocked. Critical issues include timing and size at
stocking. Young predators need to be stocked when there is an
abundance of appropriately sized forage. This allows them to
get a quick growth spurt which seemingly enhances their survival
and overall growth performance for life. However, more
research is needed to refine and prove these theories.
Overall fisheries management requires three
components: habitat management (e.g., water quality, aquatic
vegetation), fish population management (e.g., genetics, stocking,
disease control), and people management (e.g., education, outreach
and regulation management). Of these, habitat is the most
important. The FBCC will play a role in determining the exact
habitat requirement of various sport fishes, especially black bass,
and enhancing the habitat to ensure successful stocking and overall
management of the fisheries.
Florida bass are currently recognized as a unique
subspecies of bass that is well-adapted to the warm waters and an
spawning season in Florida. Some scientists even believe
they should be classified as a different species. In
addition, Florida has a unique black bass called the shoal bass
found no where else but here. The Suwannee bass is only
found in Florida and south Georgia. And we also have
spotted bass. The genetics and life history requirements of
these fishes need to be more thoroughly studied and management
programs established to ensure their survival. Other research
needs involving enhancing stocking success and protecting native
fishes from parasites and diseases will be pursued.
Ensuring the Future
The overall goal of the FBCC is to help the
Division of Freshwater Fisheries meet it's goal of providing
"optimum-sustained use" of Florida's aquatic resources.
Customer satisfaction is the measure of attaining that goal, and we
are certain that the FBCC will be a cost-effective and efficient
way of bringing many more smiles to the faces of Florida anglers in
Moreover, to bring the full vision to reality, the
agency must find matching funds from the private sector for the
Visitors Center. Individuals can donate directly to the Wildlife Foundation
of Florida and should indicate the money is for the FBCC, or
they can purchase fabulous Glen Lau photo prints and videos at a
great price, with all the profit going to the FBCC.
Organizations that would like to help sponsor the FBCC should
contact Bob Wattendorf at 850/488-0520, or
The address for the Florida Bass Conservation Center is:
3583 CR 788
Webster, FL 33597