The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has delivered the first batch Florida largemouth fledglings to the New Lake (Lake Bouldin) section of Lake Jordan. Comprising just shy of a quarter million fish this will be by summer of 2017 near a million in total, providing a major boost in fish stocks across this section of the lake. The fledglings were transported in tanks containing approximately twenty five to thirty five thousand at a time, using boats fitted out with hauling tanks and compressed oxygen.
This is the latest development in an ambitious and growing project to keep Lake Jordan replenished with Florida bass. From the years 1980 to 1994 there were nine total restocks with the earlier projects delivering a comparatively small density of fish (typically only 1-4 per acre). Follow up studied that such low densities had little chance of growing due to the lack of genetic differentiation, and suggested that much higher thresholds – around 100 fledglings per acre – were needed, although even still this number did not guarantee success.
Nick Nichols, the WFF Fisheries Section Chief explains why these projects didn’t make the scale of success that was anticipated, stating that despite these previous restocks that “the desirable traits did not persist in the population”. These desirable traits Mr. Nichols suggests are not just lack of genetic diversity, but also the timing of the restocks, location, and lack of isolation that limited overall levels of fertility.
So this new restocking project had plenty of experience to suggest what might work, but has taken up the task to a far larger scale. The density of the fish is going to be in the region of 350 per acre to be delivered annually – a significant step up from what’s but attempted before. Indeed, even the latest restock is thought to have trebled the number of bass within the lake already, so provided conditions are adequate the lake ought to be teeming with fish within the next few years.
The locally named “New Lake” part of Lake Jordan has been selected as the destination for the new fledgling bass due to its comparative isolation. It is thought to be the most promising location to stimulate fertility and encourage the population to continue to thrive.
Damon Abernathy, the WFF Fisheries Development Coordinator explained that the decision to use New Lake. “They are the Bouldin Dam embayment (New Lake) and the Shoal Creek embayment (Blackwell’s Slough). The man-made canal connecting New Lake to the rest of the reservoir has poor largemouth bass habitat, which we hope will act as a barrier to keep the introduced Florida bass confined to New Lake. There they will have a greater probability of outcompeting and ultimately interbreeding with the native Northern largemouth bass.”.
It is believed that other studies of lakes in Alabama have shown that selecting areas where the bass will be able to remain as isolated as possible then the successful fish with genetically strong traits will eventually thrive. Fishing tournaments are expected to play a consequential role in eventually spreading the fish throughout the lake, attracted in first by the quality of the fish and secondly thanks to culling and post-tournament releases.