Marked fingerling largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides (both northern M. s. salmoides and Florida subspecies M. s. floridanus and their hybrid) were stocked into Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee, to enhance angling and introgress the Florida subspecies into the local gene pool. We evaluated mass marking and stocking success by sampling the stocked fish for 1 year poststocking. More than 128,000 fingerlings (35-64 mm total length) were immersed in a solution of 500 mg/L oxytetracycline (OTC) for 6 h and stocked into four embayments in the lake in spring 2002; two additional embayments served as controls and were not stocked (these embayments contained only wild, indigenous fish). In a blind test, 97% of sagittal otoliths were correctly scored as marked or unmarked. In a subsequent test, the OTC marks were clearly visible on every otolith removed from 240 OTC-treated bass held for 30 d. Age-0 largemouth bass were sampled with DC electrofishing gear at 7-19, 44-61, and 119-139 d after stocking, and sampling was conducted along 100-m transects within 1 km of the stocking sites in each embayment. Of all recaptures in the first sample, 31% occurred more than 600 m from the nearest stocking site, indicating rapid dispersal by some fish. Survival of stocked and wild age-0 largemouth bass was similar and low (4.5-6.9%) in two embayments; in the other two embayments, stocked fish survived at lower rates (0-4.3%) than wild fish (33.7-49.9%). Mean catches of all age-0 largemouth bass in the first sample were positively related to the number of fish stocked. By October 2002, the mean catch of all age-0 largemouth bass was similar among embayments. Contribution of stocked fish declined to approximately 2% (2 of 91 fish) the following spring. Cost per fingerling increased from US$0.35 at stocking to $12.00 at 140 d poststocking. Increasing the abundance of largemouth bass was not the primary objective of this stocking effort, but stocked fish will have to survive much better if managers hope to introgress Florida largemouth bass genes into the resident population genome.
Additional publication details
Growth, dispersal, mortality, and contribution of largemouth bass stocked into Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee