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FWC, FOLA partner for inaugural Lake Apopka Fish Challenge

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has partnered with the Friends of Lake Apopka to announce the inaugural Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge. The contest, which runs from Jan. 15 to May 31, offers anglers the chance to catch a tagged fish in Lake Apopka and return the tag to the FWC for a prize from FOLA. The fish challenge is also a study to see if the competition elicits changes on Lake Apopka.

The FWC tagged 501 fish in a variety of species, such as black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish and largemouth bass. Recently, biologists netted a sizable largemouth bass and gave it a unique tag (FOLA #091) next to its dorsal fin. They dubbed the fish “Jim Thomas” after the legendary Winter Garden environmentalist who founded FOLA in 1991 and then returned it to swim around in the 30,000-acre Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth-largest lake. The angler who catches Jim Thomas during the contest period and returns the tag to the FWC will be awarded a $2,500 prize from FOLA and, if the angler submits the catch to and is approved in the TrophyCatch program, will win an additional $2,500 bringing the total prize to $5,000. To report a tag, call 352-406-7879. During this competition, the angler who submits the largest TrophyCatch-approved bass from Lake Apopka, not including Jim Thomas, will also win an additional $500 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards.

The FWC will track angler effort to determine if there was a change in angler behavior on Lake Apopka during the competition dates and afterwards. Angler effort will be tracked through TrophyCatch submissions, field cameras at all entry points on and to the lake along with on-the-water intercept surveys conducted by FWC staff. The goal is to see if a big fish promotion increases lake usage by anglers during and post competition dates and to help encourage bass anglers to explore or revisit Lake Apopka during the competition dates.

The TrophyCatch program rewards