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Medard Reservoir reopens Dec. 31; no harvest of sport fish, catfish allowed yet | Environment

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Medard Reservoir reopens Dec. 31; no harvest of sport fish, catfish allowed yet
Medard Reservoir reopens Dec. 31; no harvest of sport fish, catfish allowed yet

Plant City, FL -- Florida Fish & Wildlife has announced the Edward Medard Reservoir in Plant City, a popular destination for local freshwater anglers, will reopen to boating and fishing on Dec. 31.

FWC said the opening is welcome news to anglers, but sport fish and catfish may not be harvested because their numbers have not recovered sufficiently from the recent draining of the lake for maintenance.

To protect vulnerable fish populations while they grow and replenish, the FWC has issued an executive order prohibiting the harvest of sport fish and catfish. Until the order expires on Dec. 31, 2012, any sport fish or catfish caught in Edward Medard Reservoir must be released immediately. The executive order supersedes all other fishing regulations.

The executive order also restricts anglers to hook-and-line fishing gear only. Though tilapia, gar and other rough fish may be harvested according to state bag limit regulations, no cast nets, bush hooks, trotlines or methods other than hook and line are allowed to be used at Medard Reservoir while the order is in effect.

Sport fish species prohibited from harvest and possession include largemouth bass, black crappie (speckled perch) and all bream species (bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth, spotted sunfish, etc.).

Because of its highly productive fishery, Medard Reservoir has always been a preferred destination for local anglers. However, in December 2009, planned maintenance on the lake’s water-control structure required the Southwest Florida Water Management District to close the reservoir to public access and drain it.

With the 770-acre lake reduced to the size of a small pond, its fish populations predictably suffered massive losses. Restocking would be needed to speed the recovery of the lake’s sport fish and catfish populations.

In the spring of 2010, repairs to the water-control structure were completed and the lake was allowed to refill naturally.

Restocking of the former phosphate mine lake by FWC fisheries staff commenced in December 2010. To date, the number of juvenile fish released by the FWC totals 120,000 largemouth bass, 300,000 bluegill, 74,000 redear sunfish (shellcracker) and 200,000 channel catfish. These stocked fish have not yet reached reproductive maturity.

Additional stockings of 200,000 juvenile black crappie (speckled perch) and 80,000 juvenile largemouth bass are planned for spring 2012. Stocking of hybrid striped bass (sunshine bass) is planned for spring 2013.

Meanwhile, the FWC is developing new fishing rules for Medard Reservoir as part of a Fish Management Area agreement with Hillsborough County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The rules will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, the day after the present executive order expires.

If you would like more information on where to freshwater fish in Florida, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Freshwater Fishing” then “Sites and Forecasts,” or contact your nearest FWC regional office.

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