FLORIDA LARGEMOUTH BASS.
Florida strain largemouth bass was first introduced to San Diego in the late 1950s. The introduction of this species of bass to San Diego lakes has increased the interest in bass fishing. Bass anglers pursue this sometimes difficult to catch species in tournaments or while recreational fishing. Bass fishing has become very competitive and many anglers join bass clubs to sharpen their bass fishing skills.
THE FLORIDA BASS EXPERIMENT THAT CHANGED BASS FISHING
THROUGHOUT THE WESTERN UNITED STATES
By L. Kevin Mineo
The introduction of Florida strain of Largemouth Bass in San Diego started with a debate in a boat on Lake Henshaw in the late 1950’s. Orville Ball, then the San Diego City Lakes Manager, (one of the 1994 inductees to the Hall of Fame) and Rolla Williams of the San Diego Union-Tribune debated whether bass in Florida grew faster and were bigger due to climate of that region or to the fact that perhaps there was a different strain of fish living in the southeastern United States.
A decision was made to import Florida bass to San Diego County to be placed in Upper Otay Reservoir to determine the issue.
The County Fish & Game Commission funded the project and arrangements were made for air transportation from Florida.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made the fish available at their warmwater hatchery on the St. Johns River in central Florida. Admiral Leslie Gehres (retired), then an executive with the San Diego Union-Tribune, made arrangements with the California Air Guard to pick up the fish during a training flight to Florida. The plane was a prop transport, probably a C-130, and was equipped before the trip with tanks and an aeration system. 100,000 fingerlings arrived at the Naval Air Station where they were picked up by a Department of Fish & Game hatchery truck for transport to Upper Otay.
Half of the fish had died during the flight, and the live fish arrived about 4:00 a.m. at the shoreline of Upper Otay. A flashlight was used to illuminate a microscope where the fish were checked for disease. To the dismay of all involved in the project, they were found to be infected with “itch,” an external parasite common to aquariums and, unfortunately, warmwater fish hatcheries. The fish were all destroyed.
The next day, Orville Ball and George McCammon contacted the Department of Fish & Game in Sacramento and arrangements were made to acquire 20,000 more bass fry from the State hatchery at Pensacola, Florida. A twin engine Beechcraft, used for aerial plants trout, was made available by the Department of Fish & Game. However they required reimbursement for its use. The county Fish & Game Commission, with strong support of their then chairman, Dave Jessop (another inductee to the Hall of Fame), supplied the funding.
Several days later, the Beechcraft landed at Gillespie Field in El Cajon with a healthy load of small Florida bass. Shortly thereafter, the fish had been inspected and were stocked in their new home at Upper Otay Reservoir.