Forty-four Oklahoma lakes received a genetics boost this spring.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation stocked 44 lakes with a record 2.22 million tiny fry and fingerling-sized Florida strain largemouth bass, which grow faster and larger than the largemouth bass native to Oklahoma waters.
ODWC officials have been stocking Florida bass in Oklahoma lakes since the ‘70s, getting fish from federal hatcheries.
Since 2000, the department has been spawning Florida bass at its Durant Fish Hatchery and stocking the fry and fingerlings in Oklahoma lakes where the agency thinks it gets the most bang for its buck.
Lakes that consistently produce trophy bass (8 pounds or better) — for example Sardis, McGee Creek, Broken Bow, Arbuckle, Sooner and Cedar — get the shot in the arm of Florida genetics each year.
Other Oklahoma lakes that might produce big bass occasionally will get stocked with Florida genes every two or three years.
“We have put them in every place that we thought had any potential,” said Clif Sager, a senior fisheries biologist at ODWC. “Those top lakes, we are going to give them fish every year. The other lakes, we are going to get to them when we have fish available.
“Florida bass are not an easy fish to maintain and to spawn. They are very finicky.”
Grand Lake, considered by many to be the best largemouth bass fishing lake in the country because of its numbers, isn't a good candidate for the Florida strain because of its location, Sager said. Florida bass don't do as well in colder climates, he said.
“North of I-40 it gets real questionable,” he said. “Florida bass are basically a subtropical species. We (Oklahoma) are right on the line of being too far north for them being able to thrive and survive.”