Shoal bass harvest suspended

Fishermen who catch shoal bass in the Chipola River must throw them back. (Courtesy: EPA)

JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued an executive order suspending the harvest and possession of shoal bass from the Chipola River and its tributaries effective immediately.

The announcement came Wednesday afternoon.

The FWC says the shoal bass population in the Chipola River has potentially been impacted by Hurricane Michael. They say recent sampling efforts have shown significantly lower catches of shoal bass.

“Shoal bass are one of the least common bass species found in Florida because of their limited range,” Chris Paxton, regional fisheries administrator for FWC’s Northwest Region, said. “We are doing everything we can to ensure through proactive conservation actions that the shoal bass population remains healthy, and anglers have the opportunity to enjoy this vibrant and valued bass species for years to come.”

FWC biologists say they transferred 16 shoal bass from the Chipola River to the Blackwater Fish Hatchery near Holt to bring back the bass population.

Shoal bass are similar in body shape to a large mouth bass. Some differences are a shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin, the first and second dorsal fins are clearly connected, and its upper jaw does not extend past the eye.

The FWC says the Chipola River is the only waterbody in Florida where there is a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass.

The FWC says fishermen can catch shoal bass, but must release them back to the water.

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