Historical Perspective of Black Bass Management in the United States

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 8:00 AM
Marriott Ballroom C (The Marriott Little Rock)
James M. Long , Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, U.S. Geological Survey, Stillwater, OK
Mike Allen , School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Wes Porak , Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Eustis, FL
Cory D. Suski , Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
The history of black bass management can be traced back approximately 200 years beginning with the scientific description of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu) in 1802.  Much of the beginnings of black bass management centered on stocking and moving fish, especially in areas where pollution and overharvest had reduced fish numbers.  The conservation movement at the turn of the 20th century led to the creation of state and federal laws meant to curb harvest of black bass, especially those that were commercially harvested.  Just prior to the U.S. involvement in World War II saw the scientific descriptions of more black bass species, many that were first described but rejected as valid species in the early 1800s.  After the war, reservoir construction expanded, leading to increased rates of fish stocking, which expanded the range of some black bass species, but at the expense of native habitat for others.  The era of reservoir construction, along with the concomitant boom in black bass fishing, led many states to enact more restrictive rules regulating harvest.  Angler groups helped reduce the impact of recreational harvest through the promotion of catch-and-release fishing, which has now become so successful that traditional approaches to black bass management, such as bag and minimum-size limits, have become less effective.  Furthermore, the use of genetic tools has resulted in additional black bass species described by science, typically occupying small ranges in areas impacted by past anthropogenic manipulation.  Similarly, genetics has identified incidences of hybridization and lost genetic integrity from past-stocking actions.  Currently, black bass conservation is increasingly focused on restoring native populations and native habitats requiring the use of additional tools not traditionally employed by fisheries managers to ensure continued success.