When Murray resident Austin Gruner caught an 8.2-ounce largemouth bass bulging with developing eggs from Kentucky Lake on Feb. 10, he didn’t keep it.
Instead, Gruner took his trophy to Fisherman’s Headquarters in Benton, where employees held it for pick up by a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources hatchery truck.
“Austin’s fish is the first donation we’ve received this year for the department’s Trophy Bass Propagation Program,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We’re seeking additional donations of big bass caught in other lakes so we can increase the potential for oversized largemouths in Kentucky’s waters.”
Trophy bass donated to the program go to Pfeiffer Fish Hatchery near Frankfort for spawning. The department stocks the trophy offspring to the original lake and select other lakes in fall.
Anglers really don’t lose their trophy. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife gives participants professionally mounted, fiberglass reproductions of their fish in return for the donation. Photos of the four bass donated in 2016 – the inaugural season of the program – are viewable online at www.fw.ky.gov by searching under the keywords, “Trophy Bass Propagation Program.”
In spring, Kentucky’s program only accepts female bass weighing more than 8 pounds, and male bass weighing more than 6 pounds. Fish this size generally exceed 22 inches in length. In fall, the department accepts fish of any gender weighing more than 7 pounds.The seasonal program shuts down for the summer on May 31, because the higher temperatures are stressful to the fish and reduce the chances of survival.
Anglers should take their trophy bass to a participating bait shop as soon as possible, rather than leaving the fish in a livewell or stringer for an extended period of time. Bait shop employees will hold the fish in aerated bait tanks until a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife employee can pick up the bass and take it to a hatchery.
Look for more information about the trophy bass program, fish handling tips and a list participating bait shops on the department’s website, www.fw.ky.gov.