Black Bass Slot Limit Change on Harris Reservoir

Beginning April 1, 2006, the 13- to 16-inch slot limit on black bass (largemouth bass and spotted bass) in Harris Reservoir will change so that the harvest restriction applies only to largemouth bass. All sizes of spotted bass may be caught and harvested. This change, announced by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is intended to improve the quality of spotted and largemouth bass populations by reducing the number of abundant spotted bass between 13 and 16 inches.

A spring creel survey will be conducted on Harris Reservoir to evaluate the spring fishing as a result of the slot limit change. The reservoir is annually sampled in the spring by Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries personnel to obtain current data on the condition of the largemouth and spotted bass populations.

On October 1, 1993, a 13- to 16-inch slot limit was implemented on black bass in Harris Reservoir. The goals of the slot limit were to: 1) improve the size structure of the bass population, 2) reduce the number of bass less than 13 inches, 3) increase the number of bass between 13 and 16 inches, 4) increase the number of bass greater than 16 inches and, 5) enhance the growth and condition of bass.

Sampling conducted by fisheries biologists has revealed evidence that the black bass population has responded to the slot limit in both a positive and negative manner. There are more spotted and largemouth bass larger than 16 inches in the population, and more black bass from 13 to 16 inches. The percentage of spotted bass in the bass population has continued to increase so that they now comprise approximately 71 percent of the population. The problem arises from the fact that the increase in abundance of spotted bass inside the slot limit has resulted in a decline in the condition of largemouth bass and spotted bass less than 18 inches.

Angler data from interviews indicates that total bass harvest has been extremely low since slot limit implementation in 1993, and total bass fishing hours in 2005 were the lowest recorded over seven surveys. Harvest of spotted bass within and outside the present slot size will reduce competition with largemouth bass and should improve the poor condition of the largemouth bass and enhance spotted bass condition.

Data generated from both electrofishing and angler surveys this spring will be combined with previous samples for evaluation. Various management strategies will be studied, followed by the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries sponsoring a public meeting this summer to present findings, discuss possible management options and to solicit public comment on the bass management in Harris Reservoir. The review of available biological data and angler opinions will provide the best opportunity to develop a viable and beneficial management plan. This process may result in additional bass regulation changes in the fall of 2006.

Contact Dan Catchings at the District II Fisheries Office, 256-831-6860, for questions or more information.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

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