FISH BUSTER'S: License-free freshwater weekend is April 5-6

Published: Friday, March 28, 2014 at 08:00 AM.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) incentive-based conservation program, TrophyCatch, rewards anglers for participating in citizen-science, by catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. Besides the immediate gratification of releasing these older bass to fight another day, anglers provide valuable information about the number and distribution of these trophy bass and what it takes to sustain a trophy fishery. Biologists compare the findings to existing conservation programs such as habitat restoration efforts, aquatic vegetation management strategies, bass stocking histories and various regulation management approaches to determine what works best.

Between Jan. 1 and March 23, anglers entered 220 Lunker Club, 89 Trophy Club and three Hall of Fame bass. That is a three-fold increase over the same period last year. Part is due to simplified rules and more anglers being aware. Nevertheless, it is clear that Florida is producing and recycling vast numbers or trophy bass.

You never know when you may find a lunker on the end of your line. To be prepared, visit the TrophyCatch website, register and check out the rules and prizing. Just registering makes you eligible for a random drawing in October for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury and equipped with a Power-Pole. However, every time you have a TrophyCatch bass verified, your name is entered 10 more times.

Moreover, every verified bass earns you not only bragging rights on the Web but also a customized certificate, decal and club shirt, plus at least a total of $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and/or Rapala. Bigger fish earn greater rewards: Anglers who have 13-pound-plus Hall of Fame entries also get a $500 fiberglass replica of their catch.

So far there are already four Hall of Fame bass this season. Joseph “Brooks” Morrell’s 14 pound, 9 ounce-bass from Lake Kingsley in Clay County is the current season leader. If it holds up, he will earn the TrophyCatch Championship ring in October, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund.

However, there is still a lot of fishing to be done before then, so get out there and see what you can catch.

Bob Watterndorf is a columnist for Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. For more Fish Busters columns, visit the FWC website and select News/Monthly Columns. Instant licenses are available at on the FWC website or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356).

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