CROSSVILLE - The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency recently received a genetic assessment report from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service evaluating the Florida bass-stocking program.
TWRA began stocking Florida bass fingerlings in the Chickamauga Reservoir in the year 2000 with a goal establishing 15 percent Florida bass genes into the resident largemouth bass population. The USFWS report results show in the most recent (2010) samples collected from three embayments, 33.7 percent of Florida bass genes were present in that largemouth bass population.
Those sample embayments that have been annually stocked since 2004 were chosen because of the rich aquatic habitat characteristics favorable to largemouth bass resources.
The report stated the increase in Florida bass genes from 2000 to 2010 is an indication that hybridization and introgression has occurred between stocked fish and those native to the system.
During the decade of 2000 to 2010, TWRA stocked 1,892,119 Florida largemouth bass into the Chickamauga Reservoir.
"We are happy with the USFWS genetic report reviewing of our Florida bass stocking program in Chickamauga, but, it only serves as one part of evaluating our Florida largemouth bass stocking program," said Mike Jolley, TWRA Region III Reservoir Fisheries Biologist.
TWRA plans to continue to monitor this stocking program by collecting data through electro-fishing, creel surveys, and additional genetic sampling. Additional data will be considered from contributing factors such as aquatic vegetation, strong year classes, forage availability, largemouth bass growth rates, and mortality rates.
"We will need to determine at what rate TWRA continues to stock Florida largemouth bass and the availability of these fish from other states," Jolley said.
"Florida bass is a subspecies of the largemouth bass family and live longer and grow bigger than the native largemouth bass found in Tennessee. The plan has been to introduce enough Florida bass to cause the stocked fish to hybridize with our native largemouth, thus creating a larger fish in Chickamauga Lake," Jolley explained, "Florida bass are found to get bigger in southern climates and Chickamauga Lake is located on the edge of the climate zone capable of producing some real trophy size bass. This stocking program is designed to introduce enough Florida bass genetics in the Chickamauga Reservoir largemouth bass population to make an impact."