Stocking largemouth bass? Make sure they’re legal in Florida

It’s that time of year again: spring. Landowners, homeowner associations and sportsmen look for private fish farms from which to buy Florida’s favorite freshwater game fish, the largemouth bass, to stock in their ponds or lakes.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to remind those who live south and east of the Suwannee River that, legally, they may purchase and stock only authenticated Florida largemouth bass. These bass are from fish farmers or aquaculturists whose fish have been genetically tested and authenticated by the FWC as pure Florida largemouth bass.

Anglers come to our state from all over the world to catch trophy Florida largemouth bass, so the FWC is doing everything possible to protect the genetic purity of this ecologically and economically important subspecies of bass.

Currently, no out-of-state farms meet FWC requirements, and only two in-state fish farms meet the requirements. Those are Florida Fish Farms Inc. (352-793-4224) and Shongaloo Fisheries (352-468-1251). Both are registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and sell authenticated, pure Florida largemouth bass.

Violation of this rule is a criminal offense and also may result in federal prosecution under the Lacey Act if fish are transported across state lines. Civil penalties can reach $5,000 per fish.

The FWC passed a rule (Florida Administrative Code 68-5.002[r]), which went into effect July 1, 2010, making northern largemouth bass and intergrades (hybrids) of northern largemouth bass “conditional species” south and east of the Suwannee River and banning possession or release in those peninsular areas.

For more information about stocking largemouth bass, contact Rick Stout at 352-732-1225.

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