Chapter 16: Sportfish Species
Providing fish for sport fishing was a driving force behind the establishment of many fish hatcheries in the USA. Fish are produced and stocked into existing natural bodies of water, as well as man-made lakes and reservoirs. This tradition continues and a variety of species and life stages are produced to enhance fish populations and to provide sportfishing opportunities. Fishes being produced for sportfishing include Largemouth Bass, several other species of sunfishes, Striped Bass and White Bass. Several of these species are also being produced as food fish. These species are the focus of this chapter.
The Largemouth Bass is considered the most important warmwater sport species in North America. It provides a range of sportfishing opportunities from small farm ponds to major reservoirs in 49 of the 50 states in the USA. It also has been introduced into many countries in Central and South America, Western Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia, primarily as a sportfish. Largemouth Bass are effective predators of small forage fishes having phytophagous or insectivorous food habits, keeping their abundance in check. This can be in a farm pond setting to control Bluegill reproduction or in tilapia aquaculture setting to control any in-pond tilapia reproduction. Largemouth Bass can be trained to consume formulated feeds and be cultured intensively as a food fish.
Largemouth Bass are native to an area east of the Rockies from southeastern Canada to Mexico, but since about 1887, the species has been widely distributed elsewhere. There are two recognized sub-species of Largemouth Bass, the Florida Largemouth Bass that is native to peninsular Florida, and the Northern sub-species that is found over the rest of its natural range. The Florida sub-species is known for reaching a larger size, but is not as an aggressive feeder as the Northern sub-species. Because of the larger size obtained the Florida bass has been introduced in many areas outside its native range. However, the Florida bass does not have the cold tolerance as seen in the Northern sub-species. The two sub-species will cross where the native ranges overlap, or where Florida bass has been introduced into populations having Northern bass. The two sub-species are crossed under hatchery conditions and the progeny stocked into new farm ponds in the southern USA to obtain the growth characteristics of the Florida bass and the more aggressive feeding response of the Northern sub-species.