Florida has roughly 2 million fishermen and another 1 million out-of-state anglers also fish here every year. With more than 700 world records to its credit - more than any other state or country - Florida can honestly claim the title of “Fishing Capital of the World.”
But while saltwater fishing may get most of the attention, it was Florida's trademark species that first put the state on the international sportfishing map. March is peak time for bass fishing in Florida, and the odds of catching a trophy - a fish 10 pounds or larger - are good.
Florida has hundreds of great bass lakes, but Lake Okeechobee, or the “Big O,” as it is known in angling circles, is by far the most famous. That’s why biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission want to keep stocks healthy for generations to come.
Angler feedback is a critical part of that process. So if you are a resident angler, or one who makes an annual pilgrimage to the state every year, officials want to hear from you at two upcoming open house meetings in Hendry and Okeechobee counties.
During the meetings, biologists will discuss current conservation efforts for largemouth bass and the impacts that an ongoing review of regulations may have on Florida’s most famous freshwater history.
Many believe that Florida's largemouth bass is a distinct species; others think it merely a subspecies. But the debate is academic. No one disputes that Florida's fish grow bigger and fatter than any other species of bass. One reason is a year-round growing season; warm water and ample vegetation make for big bass.
The species Micropterus salmoides floridanus were once found only on the Florida peninsula, but they have since been introduced in Texas, California and as far away as Japan. Females live longer than males and are more likely to reach trophy size. Most conservation-minded anglers release large, breeding fish.
Interested anglers who want to share their opinions with state regulators can do so on Feb. 26 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at John Boy Auditorium in Clewiston or on Feb. 27 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Okeechobee Library in Okeechobee. For additional information, go to www.MyFWC.com.