The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch program celebrates its most recent Hall of Fame largemouth bass catch weighing 13 pounds, 5 ounces, caught and released in Orange Lake by Chad Dorland during a University of Florida fishing tournament.
Dorland’s 13-pound, 5-ounce catch was the heaviest fish weighed in during the UF open tournament on July 27. The tournament hosted 23 teams, with eight teams weighing in bag limits. Four fish weighed over 8 pounds, and Dorland and his teammate, Dusty McDevit, took fourth place overall in the tournament with a 21.26-pound bag.
“That day, it was all either little fish or absolute monsters being caught,” said Dorland. “I was flipping hydrilla with artificial bait, and was thrilled to catch my personal best during the tournament.”
In May, TrophyCatch celebrated Brian Hammett’s 15-pound, 13-ounce Hall of Fame catch – the second heaviest bass ever approved in the program – also caught and released in Orange Lake. Since Hammett’s catch there has been nine TrophyCatch-approved largemouth bass from Orange Lake.
“The fishing on Orange Lake is still really good,” said Allen Martin, FWC’s regional fisheries administrator. “Impressive tournament bag limits are being weighed in, including a high number of trophy fish, especially for the heat of the summer.”
After producing a large number of trophy bass in 2010 and 2011, Orange Lake went almost dry in the winter of 2011-2012. Following several years of sustained high water, coupled with FWC staff working with local stakeholders to manage the lake, habitat on Orange Lake is once again very good and the fishery has bounced back. To date during Season 7, 21 TrophyCatch bass weighing at least 8 pounds caught and released in Orange Lake have been approved in the program, including eight bass weighing more than 10 pounds. Dorland’s catch is the second TrophyCatch-approved Hall of Fame bass from Orange Lake in Season 7.
“The fishing on Orange Lake is better than it has ever been before,” said Dorland. “People are catching big fish all over the lake, not just in one specific spot, and that’s because of the success of FWC’s lake management.”
FWC staff worked with stakeholders to write the Orange Lake Habitat Management Plan in 2015-2016, and continue to manage the lake’s habitat according to the plan. Most vegetation communities, including submersed vegetation, are within coverage ranges specified in the Orange Lake Habitat Mangement Plan. However, lily pad coverage remains below the desired target levels.
Management activities are discussed at public meetings twice a year and have included vegetation shredding, tussock harvesting, and invasive plant control. These management activities not only enhance habitat for fish but for other species, such as wading birds. In addition to habitat enhancement projects, FWC staff continue to monitor the fish populations through fish sampling, creel surveys (angler interviews) and research projects, such as tagging studies.
TrophyCatch is a partnership between the FWC, anglers, and fishing industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, that rewards the catch, documentation, and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida.
To be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos showing the entire fish and its weight on a scale to TrophyCatch.com before releasing it back into the water. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research, to make informed decisions about the management of Florida’s bass fisheries and to promote the catch-and-release of trophy bass. In the past six seasons,
TrophyCatch has awarded prizes for the catch and release of more than 8,000 largemouth bass weighing at least 8 pounds. For more information about the TrophyCatch program, email Amber Nabors at Amber.Nabors@MyFWC.com.
For more information about the recent and ongoing management through the Orange Creek Basin Interagency Working Group or to view the Orange Lake Habitat Management Plan, visit: OrangeCreekBasin.wordpress.com.
For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual work plans, boat ramp information, and more visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lake.