MAKENZIE’S OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: Increasing the size of large mouth bass in Oklahoma

In Makenzie’s latest Outdoor Adventure, she visited the hatchery to find out how they have managed to increase the size of the large mouth bass in Oklahoma.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 12:38 PM CDT
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DURANT, Okla. (KSWO) -If you’ve ever been lucky enough to reel in an over 10 pound large mouth bass in Oklahoma, you can thank the state hatchery in Durant for that.

In Makenzie’s latest Outdoor Adventure, she visited the hatchery to find out how they have managed to increase the size of the large mouth bass in Oklahoma.

“For 30 plus years, our running rod and reel record was about 9 to 10 pounds,” said Rebecca Fillmore, Assistant Hatchery manager. “Since we’ve had the Florida genetics over a period of a few decades, we’re up over 14 pounds, almost 15 pounds is our rod and reel record.”

According to state wildlife officials, the native northern large mouth bass in Oklahoma very seldom grow larger than 8 pounds. In order to produce more trophy-size fish, they needed the genetics from the Florida Strain bass.

“Northern bass are really feisty type of bass they’re they’re fun to catch,” said Fillmore. “The Florida’s are, some would argue are a little more laid back, but they get to the much bigger size quicker. So overtime these fish even though they’re pure when they go into the lake they will eventually breed with the northern bass and that will create a feisty large fish.”

To do this, Fillmore says they have to gather pure genetically tested Florida Strain Bass, and bring them to their hatchery in Durant. There they grow and spawn.

Makenzie visited the hatchery this past April right before spawning time, to see just one step in a year long process of growing these lake monsters.

“Today we’re just moving our bass brood fish, into prepared spawning ponds, so they can spawn and give us more fish to stock out throughout Oklahoma,” said Fillmore.

To catch these adult brooder bass, they use a technique called electrofishing.

“There’s an electrical current that’s sent out from 2 booms in front of the boat,” said Fillmore. “There’s a generator inside the boat that creates that electrical current. So they’re stunned for maybe a few seconds and it gives enough time for the guy up on the top of the boat to net the fish out, put them in a live well and then they bring them to the bank and we load them into our trucks or just over to the next pond where our spawning pond is.”

Before they can be put in another pond, they’re dipped into a solution that cleans the fish of any parasites. I got to move some fish while I was there, but they made it look a lot easier than it was.

“After they spawn, we’ll separate the young from the adults and then the adults will go back into a new overwintering pond for next year,” said Fillmore.

The young, or fry as they’re called, will be grown until about an inch and a half size before they’re stocked in lakes across the state.

In the early 70′s, Lake Lawtonka was the first in the state to be stocked with the Florida strain bass. Some of the older large adult fish will be retired, and also stocked into lakes.

Fillmore says if it weren’t for this program, Oklahoma would not have the fishing opportunities that it does today.

“We’re not trying to replace all of the northern bass,” said Fillmore. “That’s not our goal. We’re just trying to affect the genetics enough to get that potential of a good fishing opportunity. So people will know this is a state they can come to to fish for Florida bass.”

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