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 stockings.
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 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
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
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
Anglers are encouraged to review the annual fishing
regulations pamphlets before any fishing outings, especially to new
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Examples: 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
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.
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 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 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
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
limit) 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
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
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.
1) 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
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.
2) 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
3) Access conflict between tournament and non-competitive
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.
4) 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.
1) 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
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
4) 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.
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.
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
2) service participating clubs with an annual report of compiled
3) provide information to club anglers on how to conduct live
4) maintain open communications with bass club anglers.
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.
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 met.
Objective: 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.
Need: 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.
Objective: To determine how much competitive bass events are effecting harvest,
displacement and spawning success of largemouth bass.
Need: 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.
Objective: 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
Need: 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
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
3) Increased funding for tournament
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.
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
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
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.
production of northern largemouth bass. An estimated 500,000 northern
largemouth fingerlings will be required annually to satisfy stocking
Parameter ranking system (rank values are the left column
Parameter range is listed in the right column).
B (lakes with moderate
index of LargeMouth
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
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
Meals, K. O. and L. E. Miranda. 1994. Size-related mortality of
tournament-caught largemouth bass. North American Journal of Fisheries
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
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.
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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.
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the northern and Florida subspecies of largemouth bass and their hybrid, and
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Fisheries Society 105:240-243.
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.
A photosynthetic pigment found in the chloroplasts of
green plants. Used as a measure of primary productivity in aquatic
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
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.
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.
ARKANSAS LARGEMOUTH BASS MANAGEMENT PLAN
Brett Hobbs, Chris Horton, Les Claybrook, Bill Shinn and Doug Swann,