Blackwater fisheries center banner year benefits anglers, youth
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Media contact: Stan Kirkland, 850-265-3676
Fisheries staff at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center had a banner year producing fish for stocking area lakes and rivers.
Nearly 1 million largemouth bass, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, black crappie, channel catfish and several other species were produced at the Blackwater facility and stocked in area waters in the last 12 months. In previous years they also produced redbreast sunfish.
“We know from previous releases these fish will be in these systems for years and provide lots of excitement to anglers. Plus, all these fish are great eating,” said Dave Yeager, FWC fisheries biologist at Blackwater.
He said the hatchery not only produces lots of fingerlings, more than 20 million since 1990 according to records, but the facility is also used by a number of area schools to teach children about ecology and fishing techniques.
While native Gulf race striped bass were once found in all Panhandle rivers, the species virtually disappeared from the Blackwater and Yellow rivers for reasons that remain unclear. Blackwater staff began stocking the two rivers annually with small stripers in 1987, and today a healthy striper population exists and anglers are now catching stripers in excess of 20 pounds from both rivers.
For years, fisheries staff have recognized that survival of largemouth bass fry in Lake Talquin, near Tallahassee, is often poor. Yeager said hatchery staff tagged and released thousands of fingerling bass in Talquin from 2000 to 2003. Surveys show that anywhere from 17 to 40 percent of the tagged fish survived and still contribute to the fishery.
Anglers are also now routinely catching redbreast sunfish in the Blackwater and Yellow rivers and hybrid striped bass in the Escambia River as a result of stocking programs.