Arkansas Black Bass Management Plan

Lake Ouachita Nursery Pond Releases Black Bass  ---   Lake Ouachita Bass Tournament Live-Release Boat

The goal of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission largemouth bass management plan is to enhance bass fishing opportunities in Arkansas through harvest regulations, stocking, trophy lake management, and habitat improvements.

Objectives of the Arkansas Black Bass management plan.

Establish harvest regulation guidelines for managing largemouth bass.

Establish a stocking protocol to obtain maximum benefit from supplemental bass

Maintain “Trophy Bass Lake” program to increase the opportunity to catch large bass.

Examine the benefits and problems of competitive bass fishing and establish a working policy for integrating competitive angling with bass management.

Identify the program, staffing, and research needed to implement the objectives of the Largemouth Bass Management Plan.

Table of Contents

Criteria for Harvest Restrictions
Supplemental Stocking Protocol
Trophy Lake Management
Tournament Fishing
Research Needs
Resource/Program Needs
Literature Cited

List of Tables & Figures

Table 1 - Lake Classification – Parameter Ranking System
Table 2 - Frequency Distribution of Angler Harvest from Arkansas Lakes
Table 3 - Management Objectives for Largemouth Bass
Table 4 - Lake Rankings Based on index of Large Mouth Bass Potential (ILMBP)


Largemouth bass are the most popular sportfish in Arkansas. The purpose of this plan is to broaden and define the management strategy the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission uses to satisfy the diversity of bass angler wants. Enhancing bass fishing opportunities is the goal.

Te AGFC established a set of guideline criteria for identifying candidate lakes for size harvest restrictions based on rates of recruitment, growth, and mortality. "Individual" lake or river management will be maintained to accommodate the diversity of our state’s fishery resources. AGFC maintains public participation in the annual regulation decision making process as a critical component.

A 15-inch minimum length limit and 13-16 inch slot limit will be the standard size harvest restrictions where warranted. Exceptions to standard harvest restrictions will be made in certain situations when justifiable. Statewide daily limit will remain at 7 bass per day (largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth combined). Specific daily limit reductions will be implemented where significant harvest reductions are needed.

Anglers are encouraged to review the annual fishing regulations pamphlets before any fishing outings, especially to new waters.

A "trophy slot limit" will be utilized on select lakes for enhancing opportunities to catch larger than 5 pound bass. We offer a program to identify potential “trophy bass” lakes. A unique management strategy is utilized on these designated waters. Trophy slot lakes will have a 16-21 inch protective slot with a daily limit of four largemouths, only one of which may exceed 21inches.

Exceptions are allowed when justifiable. Fertilization, Florida bass fingerling stocking, and maintaining a viable forage population are additional management strategies on these select lakes.

A stocking protocol was established to identify lakes that will benefit the most from supplemental largemouth bass stockings. Prioritization of candidate lakes will be based on size, natural reproduction, forage availability, and stocking history.  Recommended stocking rates are included. AGFC describes a Florida bass stocking policy based on what is known regarding the suitability of state waters for the southern subspecies. Florida bass are primarily suitable for southern and eastern Arkansas lakes. Lakes managed under the “Trophy Bass Lake” program will receive priority for Florida bass stocking. Currently these "trophy slot" lakes are the main recipients of Florida largemouth fingerling production from the Commission's hatchery system.


Over 36% of resident anglers and 58% of non-resident anglers fish primarily for bass (AMRA 1988). Bass anglers fish more often than other anglers and spend more per trip than all other anglers except non-resident trout anglers. Black bass fishing is the most popular type of fishing in the United States (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Black Bass Fishing in the United States, 1999 (an addendum to the 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation). In 1996, 44 percent (12.7 million) of all freshwater anglers in the United States fished for black bass. The report defined a black bass angler as anyone 16 years of age or older who fished for black bass at least once during the year. Bass fishing is popular with all age groups and specifically with males (81%). Most bass anglers (63%) are from small cities, towns and rural areas. The survey also indicated bass anglers are not increasing in numbers but they are becoming more avid. Average annual days fishing in 1996 for black bass anglers was 15.0 days (1991 national survey data indicated 12.3 days). A progressive and diverse management strategy is needed to satisfy the needs of Arkansas bass anglers.

The purpose of the Arkansas Largemouth Bass Management Plan is to broaden our ongoing management efforts by including bass harvest management as a strategy for improving recreational bass fishing. Management will focus on a "lake-by-lake" basis with harvest restrictions only being considered where applicable. Guidelines are established for implementing harvest restrictions and for supplemental stockings. A trophy bass management program is presented. The position of the Commission regarding competitive bass fishing is described. Finally, the research, human resources, and programs needed to reach the goals of this plan are described. Past largemouth bass management efforts in Arkansas have been directed at increasing the abundance and growth of bass by manipulating the lake’s environment and fish community. Fourt (1977) guided largemouth bass management for Arkansas using water level manipulation, fertilization, stocking of bass and forage, and selective fish kills. Harvest was assumed small compared to natural mortality and was encouraged through liberal creel limits to stimulate recruitment (Keith 1981).  The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Fisheries Division developed its first comprehensive largemouth bass management plan (LBMP) in 1990. The Commission adopted the finalized plan January, 1991. The LBMP serves as a guideline for establishment of harvest restrictions based on bass population data.

District fisheries biologists have been responsible for collecting bass population estimates (size structure, recruitment, spawning success, growth, and mortality). These data are then compared to the guidelines established in the LBMP. Bass populations potentially benefiting from a harvest restriction could then be identified. Since the adoption of the LBMP in 1991 there have not been modifications to the plan. This species plan accepts many of the tenets established in the initial plan while offering some graphic ways of interpreting field data when considering harvest restrictions.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission continues to recognize tournament fishing as a legitimate use of the resource. State agencies across the U.S. have identified both positive and negative aspects of bass tournaments (Schramm, et al., 1991). Some positive and negative impacts of Arkansas bass tournaments are listed in the Tournament Fishing section. According to Wilde, et al. (1998), fewer than 20 percent of black bass anglers in Texas participated in black bass fishing tournaments.

Among non-tournament anglers who had fished while a tournament was in progress, 51% believed tournaments negatively affected their fishing quality and 44% did not believe most fish released at tournaments survived. Fisheries managers should realize non-tournament anglers may become alienated and oppose management actions if they believe tournament anglers are favored in allocation decisions or management strategies.

Tournament activity will not be exempt from harvest restrictions in Arkansas. All user groups will abide by  harvest restrictions equally. Any deviations could result in bad feelings between user groups. Currently the catch and release (C&R) phenomenon for largemouth bass is very popular with Arkansas anglers. Recent creel surveys on lakes with harvest restrictions on largemouth bass in place have indicated very high C&R rates for black basses (Lake Ouachita 84% and Beaver Lake 95%). In contrast a 1990-93 creel survey of Lake Hamilton, during which time there was no harvest restriction in place, indicated a C&R of 41% for largemouth bass. Anglers possess differing opinions regarding the harvest of largemouth bass. The clientele of a particular waterbody should be considered when biologists are contemplating imposing harvest restrictions. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission acknowledges the right of anglers to harvest and retain bass of legal size within the daily limit while conservation is also encouraged. Arkansas, as well as other states throughout the southeastern United States, utilize electrofishing as the standard technique to collect data from a large number of bass within a short period of time. While there are minor differences in the boat configuration and electrofishing components between districts, the boats are assumed comparable in effectiveness. Fisheries Division's Standardized Sampling Procedures dictate the effort needed to collect a representative sample of bass per given water body.

Catch per hour:

Condition factor, proportional stock density, and relative stock density are compared to data from previous years to determine trends. Some lakes emerge from the evaluation process as a candidate for a harvest restriction.

Minimum length limits, slot limits, and creel reductions will be used as tools to maximize the potential of bass fisheries (when angler exploitation is high). The 1991 plan utilized recruitment, mortality, and growth data to determine if a harvest restriction was needed. These criteria were placed into target ranges for specific reservoirs grouped by subjective productivity ratings. This revised 2000 species plan suggests categories for all Arkansas lakes and reservoirs based on fisheries potential. Lakes will be assigned an index number indicating the largemouth bass potential of each. A graphic system of assessing bass population characteristics was proposed by Dean and Wright (1992) in Oklahoma. Their graphic method allows a rapid means of identifying trends in a bass fishery while determining if a harvest restriction could benefit a particular fishery. The system utilizes electrofishing catch per unit effort of largemouths greater than 15-inches and total catch per hour of largemouth bass to plot the population. High recruitment and abundance of small largemouths having condition factors below 85% are candidates for slot limits. Low abundance of small largemouths with condition factors above 90% suggest application of a minimum length limit. The X-axis represents the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of all largemouths. The Y-axis represents the CPUE for largemouths greater than 15-inches. We have developed wing graphs for Arkansas lakes and they are illustrated in Figures 1 and 2. In addition, we have modified the requirements of the X-axis to include CPUE of largemouth bass
greater than or equal to 8 inches.

The AGFC hopes that this plan will foster angler participation in the management of largemouth bass. This document contains technical terminology, which may be unfamiliar to many anglers. A glossary is provided to aid the understanding of the management concepts presented. Criteria for Harvest Restrictions The purpose of this section is to help fisheries managers identify bass populations that may be improved through a bass harvest restriction. There is no “cookbook” prescribing the proper application of harvest restrictions, so the criteria identified will serve as guidelines. Management objectives are listed in Table 3. Bass abundance and size-structure are determined by three rate functions: recruitment, growth, and mortality. These rates differ from lake to lake and year to year within lakes, but tend to be similar among lakes in the same ecoregion. The dynamic nature of recruitment, growth, cover, and mortality is due to the dominating effects of watershed size, ecoregion type, lake depth, water quality, and productivity (trophic state). Arkansas bass populations must be managed on a lake by lake basis to be effective.


Recruitment is the number of bass surviving their first year of life. It is an important factor in determining the success of harvest restrictions since these fish form the stock base from which the harvestable-size bass will grow. The number of Age 1 (bass from the previous spring spawn) largemouth bass in spring electrofishing and/or summer cove-rotenone samples will be used as an estimate of recruitment.


Growth is the change in fish size over time. Of the three rate parameters necessary for characterizing a bass population, growth is the least variable and easiest to measure. Average length of a bass year-class is a useful assessment of growth. Age can be determined from the annuli formations on hard structures (scales and otoliths) from individual bass and then averaged for year-class analysis. Scales are the preferred, but less accurate, structure since their collection does not require killing the fish. Otoliths are proving to be the most accurate method for age analysis. Mean length of bass year-classes at Age 3 will be used to monitor suitable growth.


Mortality can be separated into two distinct types: fishing mortality (harvested by an angler, hooking mortality – both initial and delayed) and natural mortality (predation, disease, starvation, or old age). Total annual mortality is the sum of both occurring over the period of a year, and is usually derived from year-class catch curves (Ricker 1975). Fishing mortality is estimated through "mark and recapture" model studies using reward tags as an incentive for anglers to report tagged catches. Natural mortality is determined by subtracting fishing mortality from total mortality.

Rank System

This rank system is based on the primary requirements for a fishery:

(TSI)  - Food
(WA) -  High water potential and nutrient retention
(Vegetation)  - Cover
eco-region - (combination of other requirements) of the state.

An example of how to use this system in order to get a rank value for a lake is given below:
Beaver Lake:
3 (TSI=23) + 2 (WA=26.9) + 0 (Vegetation=0) + 1 (Ecoregion=Ozarks) = Rank Val. 6

For simplicity we will label all lakes according to the following titles:
T - Trophy Slot Limit Lakes
A - Lakes with a high ILMBP
B -  Lakes with a moderate ILMBP

Actual ILMBP values have been calculated for several Arkansas lakes and are listed in Table 3. As some lakes will fall marginally within defined cutoff points, district fisheries biologists will determine which ranking should be designated per respective waterbody. Wing graphs (a form of scatter plot) have been developed for each of three divisions (Horton 2000). Each wing graph will define the target range for RSD, per given lake type (T, A, or B). All wing graphs utilize catch rates of >15 inch largemouth bass on the Y-axis. The X-axis for all graphs is represented by the catch rate of largemouths > 8 inch. Wing graphs for lake types A & B are listed in Figures 1 and 2, respectively. The "Trophy Lakes" wing is listed in Figure 3. The purpose of size limits is to help rebuild depleted stocks of bass by reducing total annual mortality on fish of a certain size (Anderson 1974). Novinger (1984) listed the qualitative criteria for minimum length and slot limits as lakes exhibiting the following symptoms:

Minimum Length Limits Slot Limits.

1) High fishing mortality
2) Low recruitment - High recruitment
3) Fast growth - Moderate to slow growth
4) Low natural mortality -  High natural mortality on Age 0-2 bass

Standard Harvest Restrictions.

Standardization of harvest restrictions should serve to alleviate confusion within the angling public. A 15-inch minimum length limit or 13-16 inch slot limit will be the standard harvest restrictions where warranted. A "trophy slot limit" of 16-21 inches will be enacted on a few select lakes (see Trophy Lakes section of this document). The purpose of a minimum length limit is tomaintain a consistent breeding population of fish where natural reproduction does not keep upwith fishing pressure. A protective slot limit prohibits anglers from keeping largemouth bass
within a designated size range in order to increase the abundance of largemouths over 15inches. The "Trophy Slot" is to promote the opportunity to catch largemouth bass over 5 pounds (a 5-pound largemouth in Arkansas is roughly 21 inches in length).


Fish population modeling has recently become an effective tool when trying to determine appropriate harvest restrictions on specific water bodies. In order to model effectively, the percent of the total annual mortality which is represented by natural and fishing mortality must be determined. Once fishing mortality is determined (generally by tag-reward studies) the natural mortality can be estimated by subtracting the fishing mortality from the total annual mortality. In order for minimum length limits to be effective, the natural mortality must be low. In order for slot limits to be effective, the inverse needs to be true. After obtaining estimates of fishing and natural mortality, a population can be effectively modeled. Fish population models allow the manager to predict yield, harvest, and the resulting population structure at various harvest restrictions. Modeling a population of largemouth bass would be effective when trying to determine why a certain harvest restriction proved ineffective, or when a trend in a largemouth bass population displays characteristics bordering a need for both a slot and minimum length limit.

Creel Limit

The purpose of a daily creel limit is to prevent overharvest of the fishery, to allow the equitable distribution of the harvest over the greatest number of anglers, and to give the angler a reasonable target to mark his fishing success. Harvest may reduce the number of quality-size bass available to anglers, but not to the detriment of a bass population’s ability to sustain through natural recruitment. The equitable distribution of the harvest is implied through a daily creel limit, but probably occurs only in situations of highly abundant bass populations. Distribution of the harvest is more dependent on angling skill than on a daily creel limit. Further, obtaining a daily limit of 10 bass is a relatively rare event and usually accomplished only by more skilled anglers (Table 2). The options for correcting this situation are to either completely remove the daily creel limit for bass or to reduce it to a level that becomes meaningful biologically or to the angler. The former option is rejected for the obvious reason that it implies an unlimited supply of bass that can be harvested without harm to the fishery. The second option requires a substantial reduction to be meaningful.The statewide daily creel will remain at 10. Specific creel reductions will be used where significant harvest reduction is a management objective.

1) Lake Millwood bass restoration effort in which the daily limit has been reduced to 3
2) Arkansas "trophy slot limit" lakes will have a daily limit of 4 bass per day, only 1 of which may exceed 21-inches

Supplemental Stocking Protocol.

Northern strain largemouth bass:
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission supplementally stocks many of its warmwater lakes and reservoirs with largemouth bass (Keith 1969, Pritchard et al. 1976) to improve year-class strength, overall population size, and angler harvest. The decision to supplementally stock a lake will be based on analysis of historical electrofishing and rotenone samples which will show those lakes that have had consistent problems with recruitment. Prioritization of lakes is needed when the request for fingerling bass is greater than the number produced by the hatchery system. The highest priorities for largemouth bass stockings are new or recently renovated lakes. These lakes will be stocked at a rate of 250/ha (100/acre). Next, priority will be given to lakes under 1,215 ha (3000 acres) that have historically had low recruitment represented in rotenone and electrofishing samples. These lakes will be stocked at a
rate of 125/ha (50/acre). Lakes from 1,215 to 4,050 ha will be stocked at a rate of 62/ha (25/ac).

Other lakes can be added to this “list” as needed based on rotenone and electrofishing samples. Lakes over 4050 ha, which include large Corps of Engineers reservoirs, should be stocked through the nursery pond system. It is unlikely that the current hatchery system would be able to produce enough bass to adequately stock these reservoirs. Based on recent annual largemouth bass fingerling production, we estimate our hatchery system will need to produce 500,000 "northern" largemouth fingerlings annually to satisfy demand.

Florida Strain largemouth bass:
Lake Millwood will be the exception to the rule for stocking of fingerling bass. The location and habitat present in Lake Millwood are conducive to Florida bass stocking. In addition, preliminary genetic analysis of Lake Millwood adult largemouths (sample size 55 fish) indicates 96% of the sample contained Florida alleles. However, many of these adults were back crosses between Fx's and Northerns. We feel this can be positively shifted toward Florida's with additional fingerling stocking efforts (see the Florida bass section for more details).

Trophy Lake Management:

Trophy bass management in the southeast United States has assumed increasing importance during the past few years as angler demand for trophy bass opportunities has increased. A recent fishing regulations survey (June, 1997) indicates Arkansas anglers are strongly in support of length limits and slot limits for fisheries management. A past survey indicated Arkansas anglers are willing to accept more restrictive size or creel limits in return for a trophy fishery (AMRA 1988). The minimum size bass considered a trophy catch varies widely among anglers. The Commission’s Master Angler Award Program uses a minimum largemouth bass weight of 8 pounds. The objective of the Trophy Lake Management program is to promote conditions favorable for the production of largemouth bass over 5 lbs. that can also result in catches of bass 8 lbs. and larger.
The Arkansas Trophy Lake Management program uses biological criteria to identify waters that have the potential to produce large bass.

These criteria are characterized by:

1) Age 1 CPUE of 20-30 bass per hour during spring electrofishing or 50 Age 1 bass per hectare cove rotenone, on a consistent basis
2) Average length at Age 3 greater than 14 inches
3) Available Prey/Predator ratio greater than 1 for bass over 15 inches
4) Gizzard or threadfin shad forage base
5) Public acceptance
6) PSD of 50-70%
7) RSD of 30-40%
8) Total catch per effort 75-100 bass per hour during spring electrofishing
9) Catch per effort of 15-40 bass per hour (15 inches and larger) during spring electrofishing
10) Suitable for Florida bass introduction

Management Strategy:

Management on "Trophy Lakes" is designed to capitalize on a lake's high productivity and largemouth bass growth potential. The following management program will be implemented on waters designated "Trophy Lakes":

1) Restricted harvest: a 16 to 21-inch protective slot with a daily creel limit of four, only one
of which may exceed 21 inches. (Exception: Lake Monticello which has a 16-24 inch slot
2) Fertilization: if conditions warrant the addition of inorganic nutrients to boost production.
Waters suitable for fertilization are limited to lakes owned or controlled by the
Commission, cost effective in size, hydraulic residence time of one year or greater, and
Total Hardness value of 20 mg/L (or greater) Calcium Carbonate.
3) Florida largemouth bass introduction: as they are available.

Florida-Strain Largemouth Bass Stocking Policy:

Past stocking of Florida-strain largemouth bass in Arkansas waters has in large part been without guidelines on stocking suitability or follow-up studies to determine survival and impacts on the fishery. Consequently, success has been hit, miss, or more often, unknown. This policy statement is an attempt to set forth general guidelines for the most efficient and effective distribution of the limited number of Florida bass available. More is now known about how Florida largemouth bass and their hybrids compare with the pure northern subspecies in terms of survival and temperature tolerance outside their home range. Some literature suggests the F1 hybrid cross may have similar or superior growth and may be more temperature tolerant than the pure Florida bass (Zolczynski and Davies 1976). However,

Horton and Gilliland (1993) found that pure Florida largemouth bass had significantly faster mean growth rates than other phenotypes (F1, Fx, and northern LMB). A lower water temperature limit of 40 degrees F appears to be the controlling factor for extending the pure Florida bass range in Oklahoma (Gilliland, OK Dept. of Conservation, pers. comm.) and Oklahoma no longer stocks Florida largemouth bass north of a 3400 heating degree days cline (Gilliland 1992). A thorough and comprehensive evaluation of Florida bass introduction into Arkansas waters is a research need. Until more information is available, the stocking of Florida-strain largemouth bass will be restricted to south and east Arkansas below the Ozark and Ouachita highlands fall line and lakes within the Arkansas River valley. Lakes outside this range are eligible if artificially warmed by thermal discharges (e.g. steam generation cooling lakes). Lakes managed for a trophy fishery will have priority for Florida-strain fingerling stockings. Initially, lakes should be stocked at a rate of 250/ha (100/acre) for a minimum of three years. Rates will be based on individual lake analysis.

The Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery in Hot Springs produces all the Florida fingerlings for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Constraints would require additional pond space and reorganized production goals (by species) to "grow-out" Florida fingerlings to an average of 3-inches. Since many of the lakes into which these fingerlings will be targeted contain abundant cover, we feel the best choice would be to raise these fingerlings to a 2-inch average. Stocking of fingerlings on these lakes should be done at ramps which will afford the most nursery cover. In situations where the ramp is not near the best available nursery cover, then the district fisheries biologist should be available to shuttle fingerlings by boat to the best suited areas. Based on recent annual largemouth bass fingerling production, we estimate our hatchery system will need to produce 250,000 "Florida" largemouth fingerlings annually to satisfy demand. Tournament Fishing Organized competitive fishing events (tournaments) have become increasingly popular in the last two decades. An estimated 61,900 anglers participated in at least one competitive fishing event in Arkansas during 1987 (AMRA 1988). Most of these (47,700) were bass anglers participating in at least one bass tournament. About a third of these anglers (15,900) fished in more than 12 tournaments during the year.

Exemptions from harvest restrictions (minimum length limits & slot limits) will not be made for tournament activity. The regulations are meant to be equitable between all user groups. State agencies across the United States have identified both positive and negative aspects of bass tournaments (Schramm et al. 1991). Comparisons of the problems and benefits associated with competitive bass angling reveal that tournaments cause as well as solve problems.


 Mortality resulting from tournament events.
High mortality of tournament caught bass can lead to depleted stocks of quality-sized fish, this prompting the need for harvest restrictions. Several studies have shown that tournament-induced mortality during “live release” tournaments range from 0-60%.
Past studies revealed bass mortality associated with tournament fishing increased with water temperature (Schramm et al 1987).
Recent studies (Gilliland 1997, Weathers and Newman 1997, Wilde 1998) reinforced evidence that significantly higher mortality, both initial and delayed, occurred during the hot summer months when water temperatures were elevated.
Other studies indicate that larger bass suffered higher stress and mortality rates in tournaments than smaller fish (Meals and Miranda 1994).
In Arkansas, high bass mortality has been observed at tournaments held during warm weather, especially smaller local “bass club” tournaments.
Many tournament organizers and bass clubs have committed to “live release” and have done excellent jobs keeping fish alive.

Potential displacement of fish within a body of water
(fish caught in one area and released in another).
Tournament caught fish tend to remain in the release area after weigh-in (Klindt and Schiavone 1991). Relocation of fish can alter their availability to anglers and potentially affect forage fish and competitor populations.

 Access conflict between tournament and non-competitive anglers.
This is a common complaint voiced by non-competitive anglers. Large or multiple tournaments held at the same access site can tie-up a boat ramp and parking area, making it difficult for other boaters to use the area.

Increased demands on Fisheries Division personnel.
Fisheries Division personnel are frequently requested to participate in tournament weigh-in activities and especially on weekend days. Fish trucks and personnel are often used to return live fish to the water. Biologists and hatchery technicians have verified tournament weights and helped
tournament anglers separate largemouth from spotted bass.

Almost all large tournaments are two day events, disrupting normal work schedules. Holding the fish in a fish truck is often not necessary for bass survival and the presence of Commission biologists appears to sanction the tournament event and weigh-in procedures. This service to tournaments is inequitably provided. However, our involvement is beneficial for public relations.


Tournaments are good opportunities for the collection of catch data and spawning broodstock. Tournament data have been shown to be a reliable source of information (Gablehouse and Willis 1986). Broodstock for hatchery and nursery pond projects can easily be gathered at spring tournaments.
2) Competitive fishing promotes fishing popularity and conservation practices.
Large tournament organizations have promoted sport fishing through magazines, newspaper articles, and television shows. Tournament organizations were among the first to promote “catch and release” attitudes common today.

Tournament activities inject monies into local economies and generate revenue for the AG&FC
Large, well publicized, competitive fishing events can bring as much as $150,000.00 into a local economy for a single two day event (Bryan 1988). Most tournaments in Arkansas are much smaller, but do support local economies through the purchase of lodging, meals, and fuel.
Competitive fishing helps drive interest in purchasing relatively expensive boats, motors, equipment, and tackle subject to the Federal-Aid taxes that support the Commission’s fisheries management activities.

Organized competitive fishing groups have been a source of funding and volunteer labor for certain fisheries projects. Many competitive fishing clubs have contributed funds for equipment purchases and projects utilized in bass management. Some bass clubs have helped directly through voluntary labor and materials used in management projects (e.g. fish habitat improvement projects). Good communication and public relations are enhanced through these projects.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission adopts the following positions regarding competitive

Competitive fishing events are a legitimate use of the resource that do not require special regulation or use restrictions at their present level of activity. No evidence exists, indicating competitive fishing on its own has or is leading to depletion of adult bass in Arkansas waters.

Competitive anglers are subject to the same harvest restrictions as non-competitive anglers and tournament rules are often more restrictive than Commission regulations. Despite their higher visibility, competitive anglers represent a small percentage of the angling public. In a recent survey conducted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, only 9.9% of the anglers surveyed had fished in a bass tournament in the past year (Responsive Management 2000).

Continue to promote the live release of tournament caught bass. The decision to keep or release a legally caught bass should remain a personal decision by the individual angler. Many tournament organizers and clubs have elected to release all tournament caught bass as a rule. We support efforts to conserve the resource and promote goodwill between competitive and non-competitive anglers. Tournament organizers should be aware of potentially high mortality rates in the warm summer months and should consider limiting tournament activities during this time. Current literature suggests delayed mortality during warm weather tournaments can be high.

Maintain direct involvement of Commission personnel with competitive fishing events. The key to increasing survival of tournament-caught bass lies with the individual angler and weigh-in officials. Maintaining our direct involvement will allow tournament organizers to become responsible for fish survival in “live release” tournaments. Since the proper organizational procedures can help reduce catch and release mortality (Weathers and Newman 1997), we will continue to work with competitive anglers in providing methods for keeping fish alive and collecting broodstock for our hatcheries and nursery pond programs.

Arkansas Tournament Information Program:

 Continue to utilize and develop the  (ATIP). ATIP is a voluntary program to:

 1) collect tournament catch records from numerous small bass clubs scattered across the state as a fishery evaluation tool
 2) service participating clubs with an annual report of compiled tournament records
 3) provide information to club anglers on how to conduct live release tournaments
 4) maintain open communications with bass club anglers.

Research Needs:

Research answers questions and resolves problems to aid fisheries management programs. The following is a list of specific research areas needing investigation to meet our goal stated in this plan:

1) Evaluate and develop specific Florida bass stocking and management guidelines.

Florida strain largemouth bass achieve a larger size than the northern subspecies where successfully introduced. A logical stocking plan for this subspecies is needed.

Objective: A long term study to determine the present distribution of Florida bass
genes across the state from past Florida bass stockings and determine the most
efficient use of Florida bass and the F1 hybrid in the state.

2) Monitor and adjust the harvest restriction and trophy lake criteria identified in this plan.

Criteria used in this plan to quantify rates of recruitment, growth, and mortality are
based on a scant amount of existing data for Arkansas lakes. Evaluation and
adjustment of these criteria are needed to insure the goals of this plan are being

 Determine if the harvest restriction criteria stated in this plan are
effective in identifying good candidate lakes for harvest restrictions or trophy lake
management. Continue to modify these criteria as results from this research
become available.

3) Determine the effects of competitive bass fishing on the harvest, displacement and spawning
success of largemouth bass.

Bass tournaments have proliferated in the state to the point where several tournaments may occur on one lake on the same date. Even if tournaments are “live release” events, some mortality, displacement and interference with
spawning activities occur. The cumulative effect needs evaluation so fisheries managers can make informed management responses to competitive fishing.

To determine how much competitive bass events are effecting harvest, displacement and spawning success of largemouth bass.

4) Evaluate habitat enhancement projects as they relate to largemouth bass population density
and structure

The Commission has and will continue to conduct habitat enhancement projects in the state’s waters. Evaluation of habitat structures is needed to design structures that not only concentrate largemouth bass, but also improve population density and size distribution. The introduction and management of natural aquatic vegetation for habitat enhancement needs study.

A long term study to:
1) determine if present ongoing habitat enhancement projects are effective in concentrating largemouth bass,

2) determine if habitat enhancement structures improve angler success,

3) determine what cover design and materials are most effective in attracting largemouth bass,

4)determine if the addition of habitat structure can increase largemouth bass population density and size  distribution, and determine the viability of introducing aquatic vegetation for enhancing bass habitat.

5) Initiate lake trophic status study to further define our lake classification system:

The proposed ILMBP index utilized in this plan will need additional chlorophyll a data. Data will be collected at multiple sites per water body (every 5-10 years). Lakes are dynamic and will undergo changes in watershed usage which may alter productivity. The productivity largely determines fisheries potential and should be monitored on a regular basis.

Objective: To update the index of largemouth bass potential (ILMBP) to best manage the individual fisheries across the state. Resource/Program Needs Implementation of this plan requires additional management, hatchery, and research efforts in several areas. Described in this section are the programs and resources needed to effectively reach the management and research goals discussed in this plan.

Black Bass Program:
The Black Bass Program has recently been created to address many of the needs outlined in this plan. The program will address research needs, agency tournament participation and education, population modeling, Arkansas Tournament Information Program and habitat improvement projects. In order to accomplish these tasks, additional resources are needed.

1) Increased staffing.
 Currently, the Black Bass Program has only one biologist tasked with the development and implementation of the program. In order to meet the needs of the Largemouth Bass Species Plan in a timely manner, an additional staff member at the level of Biologist II will be required.

2) Increased funding for research.
 As outlined in the Research Needs, there are numerous research projects which are necessary to increase our effectiveness in managing largemouth bass populations. We feel the continued refinement of harvest restrictions, trophy bass management, the best utilization of a Florida bass stocking program, supplemental stocking, and tournament mortality cannot be effectively addressed without increasing funds for bass management research.

3) Increased funding for tournament assistance program.
Currently, agency participation at tournament weigh-ins is provided on an unequal basis and requires considerable time from Fisheries Division personnel. A solution to the problem will be the development of a fish distribution trailer program where tournament organizers will have access to fish tanks mounted on trailers to hold and release fish following weigh-ins. These trailers will be available for check-out and can be operated without the use of Fisheries Division personnel. These trailers will not only reduce the time required of Fisheries staff members but also provide for a more equitable distribution of services.

Fisheries Management:
Accurate and precise data are the foundation of effective decision making. Dedication of manpower
and funds to the following areas are necessary to implement the objectives of this plan.

1) Increased angler creel surveys.
Angler effort, success, and harvest is the ultimate
test of fisheries management. At a minimum, the major reservoirs of the state should
be surveyed once every three years on a rotating basis or as often as is feasible. Any
lake being managed for the production of trophy bass should be surveyed to evaluate
the effectiveness of the management.

2) Angler attitude and preference surveys.
We need to be sensitive to angler
preferences and attitudes about what is a quality fishery. Fisheries Division should
continue to monitor angler attitudes and preferences through statewide surveys
every five years. The agency's marketing analyst should facilitate this process with
coordination through Fisheries Division.

3) Increased fisheries management staffing.
Currently our fisheries biologists spend
less than one third of their time monitoring fish populations and evaluating data. Our
aggressive lake and access construction programs increase construction planning,
development, and maintenance work loads on district field staff. Improving
largemouth bass management requires a more intensive sampling and evaluation
regime than the districts can presently provide except on a limited number of lakes.
Each fisheries district would benefit from a full-time technician to assist with fisheries

Hatchery and Fish Culture:

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission boasts one of the nation’s largest warm water fish
hatchery systems with four warm water hatcheries. In 1999, over 383,500 largemouth bass
fingerlings and yearlings were produced for stocking into new and renovated lakes, existing
fisheries, and private farm ponds.
Based on recent annual largemouth bass fingerling production:

1) Hatchery production of Florida largemouth bass. An estimated 250,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass will be required annually to support the Trophy Lake program.

2) Hatchery production of northern largemouth bass. An estimated 500,000 northern largemouth fingerlings will be required annually to satisfy stocking demand.

Table 1.
Lake Classification:
Parameter ranking system (rank values are the left column
Parameter range is listed in the right column).

TSI (trophic state index) WA (watershed area)  Vegetation  Eco-region
1 1-10
2 11-20
3 21-30
4 31-40
5 41-50
6 51-60
7 61-70
8 71-80
6 81-90
10 91-100
1 <20
2 21-39
3 40-59
4 60-79
5 80-99
6 100-200
7 201-300
8 301-400
9 401-500
10 501+
0 Absent
5 Present
1  Ozark/Boston Mtn.
2 AR River/Delta
3 Ouachita Mtn.
4 Gulf Coastal Plain

Table 2.

Frequency Distribution of Angler Harvest from Arkansas Lakes Data From Arkansas Creel Surveys:
For Black Basses (largemouth, spotted, & smallmouth)

Total number of anglers = 23,756

Number of bass harvested

Number of anglers

Table 3.

Management objectives for largemouth bass density, recruitment, growth, and size structure on three classes of Arkansas lakes:

    T (trophy slot limit lakes)

    A (lakes with high fisheries potential)

    B (lakes with moderate fisheries potential).

Lakes with measured values falling outside defined ranges are eligible for a minimum length limit or slot limit harvest restriction.

T 20-40 Age 1 bass/hr spring electrofishing
A 15-30 Age 1 bass/hr spring electrofishing
B 10-20 Age 1 bass/hr spring electrofishing
T 14+ inches @ Age 3
A 13+ inches @ Age 3
B 11+ inches @ Age 3


Size Structure (percent >15")
T 40-55%
A 20-40%
B 15-25%

Adjusted Exploitation:

Tag/reward studies indicate adjusted exploitation less than 25%.

Minimum Forage Availability:

Available Predator/Prey Ratio
 6 for bass under 12 inch

Available Predator/Prey Ratio
 2 for bass over 12 inch

Table 4.

Lake Rankings Based on index of Large Mouth Bass Potential

A (lakes with highest ILMBP rankings)
B (lakes with moderate ILMBP rankings)

Lake Trophic state index Watershed area Vegetation Rank Eco-Region index of LargeMouth Bass Potential
Bull Shoals 4 5 0 1 10
Barnett 2 5 0 3 10
Chicot 5 3 0 2 10
Mallard 7 1 0 2 10
Bear Creek 7 1 0 2 10
DesArc 7 1 0 2 10
Charles 7 2 0 1 10
Tri County 5 2 0 4 11
Ouachita 3 1 5 3 12
Dierks 6 3 0 3 12
Enterprise 7 1 0 4 12
Hurricane 6 3 0 3 12
De Queen 6 4 0 3 13
Hinkle 4 5 3 3 15
Sugarloaf 4 1 5 3 13
DeGray 4 2 5 3 14
Nimrod 5 6 0 3 14
Blue Mountain 5 6 0 3 14
Conway 6 1 5 2 14
Gillham 6 6 0 3 15
Columbia 6 1 5 4 16
White Oak Lower 5 1 5 4 16
First Old River 6 1 5 4 16
Storm Creek 8 1 5 2 16
Erling 6 2 5 4 17
Horeshoe 9 1 5 2 17
White Oak Upper 7 2 5 4 18
Hamilton 5 6 5 3 19
Millwood 6 5 5 4 20
Catherine 4 10 5 3 22

 B (lakes with moderate index of LargeMouth Bass Potential  rankings)

Lake TSI WA Veggi Rank Eco-Region ILMBP
Greers Ferry 3 2 0 1 6
Beaver 3 2 0 1 6
Norfork 3 3 0 1 7
Wilhelmina 1 3 0 3 7
Brewer 3 2 0 2 7
Swepco 5 1 0 1 7
Poinsett 4 1 0 2 7
Harris Brake 4 1 0 2 7
Pickthorne 4 1 0 2 7
Bob Kidd 5 1 0 1 7
Elmdale 4 2 0 1 7
Maumelle 4 1 0 3 8
BeaverFork 5 1 0 2 8
Greeson 4 2 0 3 9
Ashbaugh 6 1 0 2 9
Hogue 6 1 0 2 9
Greenlee 6 1 0 2 9
Cane Creek 1 1 5 2 9
Overcup 6 1 0 2 9
Atkins 6 1 0 2 9

Literature Cited
AMRA 1988. Fishermen attitude study. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Little Rock, AR.

Anderson, Richard O. 1974. Problems and solutions, goals and objectives of fishery management. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissions 27:391-401.

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality- Water Division. Water quality assessment of Arkansas significant publicly-owned lakes. WQ95-12-01 (December, 1995).

Bryan, H. 1988. Socioeconomic impacts of Red Man (Operation Bass) tournaments: a research report. University of Alabama, University (City).

Dean, J., and G. Wright. 1992. Black bass length limits by design: a graphic approach. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 12:538-547.

Fourt, Ralph A. 1977. Management of black bass in Arkansas. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Little Rock.

Gabelhouse, Jr., Donald W., and D. W. Willis. 1986. Biases and utility of angler catch data for assessing size structure and density of largemouth bass. North American Journal Fisheries Management 6:481-489.

Gilliland, Eugene R. 1992. Experimental stocking of Florida largemouth bass into small Oklahoma reservoirs. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 46:487-494.

Horton, Chris M. 2000. Wing graphs: a visual method for evaluating harvest restrictions on Arkansas lakes. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Administrative Report. Little Rock, AR.

Horton, R. A. and E. R. Gilliland 1993. Monitoring trophy largemouth bass in Oklahoma using a taxidermist network. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 47:679-685.

Keith, William E. 1969. Preliminary results in the use of a nursery pond as a tool in fishery management. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners 23:501-511.

Keith, William E. 1981. Pros and cons of minimum size limit on black bass. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Administrative Report, Little Rock.

Klindt, R. M. and A. Schiavone, Jr. 1991. Post-release mortality and movements of tournament caught largemouth and smallmouth bass in the St. Lawrence River. Bureau of Fisheries, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Watertown.

Meals, K. O. and L. E. Miranda. 1994. Size-related mortality of tournament-caught largemouth bass. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 14:460-463.

Novinger, Gary D. 1984. Observations on the use of size limits for black bass in large impoundments. Fisheries 9:2-6.

Pritchard, D.L., O.W. May Jr., and L. Rider 1976. Stocking of predators in the predator stocking - evaluation reservoirs. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners 30:108-113.

Responsive Management 2000. Arkansas resident anglers and non-resident anglers awareness of and attitudes toward fishing in Arkansas. Survey report for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ricker, W. E. 1975. Estimation of survival rate and mortality rate from age composition. Pgs. 29-73 in Computation and interpretation of biological statistics of fish populations. Bulletin 191. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

Shramm, H. L., Jr., P. J. Haydt, and K. M. Portier. 1987. Evaluation of pre-release, post release  and total mortality of largemouth bass caught during tournaments in two Florida lakes. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 7:394-402.

Schramm, H.L., Jr., M.L. Armstrong, N.A. Funicelli, D.M. Green, D.P. Lee, R.E. Manns, Jr. , B.D. Taubert, and S.J. Waters. 1991. The status of competitive sport fishing in North America. Fisheries 16(3):4-12.

Weathers, K. C. and M. J. Newman. 1997. Effects of organizational procedures on mortality of largemouth bass during summer tournaments. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 17:131-135.

Wilde G.R. 1998. Tournament associated mortality in black bass. Fisheries 23(10):12-22.

Wilde G.R., R.K. Riechers, and R.B. Ditton. 1998. Differences in attitudes, fishing motives, and demographic characteristics between tournament and nontournament black bass anglers in Texas. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 18:422-431.

Zolczynski, Jr., Stephen J., W. D. Davies. 1976. Growth characteristics of the northern and Florida subspecies of largemouth bass and their hybrid, and a comparison of catchability between the subspecies. Transactions American Fisheries Society 105:240-243.



Carlson's Trophic State Index:

The "standard" index used to describe productivity (fertility) in water bodies. The index is derived from Chlorophyll a readings. Catch-curve: a graph representing the relative abundance of various year-classes of a fish species. Used to measure total mortality effecting the various year-classes present in the population.

Chlorophyll a:

A photosynthetic pigment found in the chloroplasts of green plants. Used as a measure of primary productivity in aquatic systems.

Delayed Mortality:

Death of a released fish caused by initial stress. May occur several days after the release of a seemingly healthy fish.


Geographic regions in Arkansas that contain similar land, water, and wildlife characteristics.Delta ecoregion, Ouachita Mountain ecoregion, etc.


Bass harvested or removed from the population by the fisherman. Measured using return of reward tags from a known number of tagged bass. Adjusted exploitation will account for tag loss, tagging mortality, and non-reporting by anglers.

Florida largemouth bass:

A subspecies of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) native to the lower Florida peninsula. Desired for their ability to obtain relatively large sizes.

 F1 hybrid largemouth bass:

A first generation cross between northern strain and Florida strain largemouth bass.


Change in fish size with time. Measured as the average size of the bass at its third year of age (mean length of Age 3 bass).

Heating Degrees Days:

The sum over all days fall to spring of the difference between 65° Fahrenheit (18.3oC) and the average daily temperature.


Removal of fish from the population by death, either by natural causes or harvest by a fisherman. Total mortality is a combination of both factors and is indirectly assessed with Proportional and Relative Stock Density indices. Fishing mortality alone measured by exploitation studies or creel census surveys. Length and slot limits are designed to reduce fishing mortality on selected sizes of bass.

Northern largemouth bass:

The subspecies of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) native to Arkansas waters.


Flattened, oval, calcified structures found in the head of bony fishes. Associated with equilibrium. Often more accurate than scales for age analysis.


Largemouth bass reaching 15 inches in length. The size preferred by most bass fishermen to catch.

Proportional Stock Density:

An index that expresses the proportion of quality-sized bass (12 inches and larger) to stock size bass (8 inches and larger). Used as an indirect measure of total mortality. Quality-size: size at which most fishermen begin to keep largemouth bass, about 12 inches.


Number of fish that spawn that live at least one year. Measured as the number of Age 1 bass in spring electrofishing or summer cove-rotenone samples.

Relative Stock Density:

An index that expresses the proportion of preferred-sized bass (15 inches and larger) to stock size bass (8 inches and larger). Used as an indirect measure of total mortality.


Bass at a length of 8 inches.

Watershed area:

The total area which drains into a particular waterbody. Determines how much water enters a reservoir.


A population of bass spawned in the same year. Consistent year classes are an indicator of good recruitment.


Prepared by:
Brett Hobbs, Chris Horton, Les Claybrook, Bill Shinn and Doug Swann,

Approved by: 
Mike Gibson, Chief of Fisheries


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