IMMOKALEE, FL. -- After nearly a decade, fishermen are finally catching noteworthy bass in Lake Trafford again.
The good news comes after years of habitat problems for the lake in northwest Collier County, the largest natural lake south of Lake Okeechobee. During the mid-1990s, excessive amounts of muck created poor water quality with low oxygen levels that led to several large fish kills. The problems nearly eliminated the largemouth bass population in this location.
In 2004, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) led a multimillion-dollar dredging/restoration project. The task took six years to complete after crews removed more than 6 million cubic yards of muck. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) established a plan for controlling problem exotics such as hydrilla and West Indian marsh grass, and helped restore beneficial aquatic plants like bulrush and Illinois pondweed.
Starting in 2010, the FWC began restocking the lake with 500,000 largemouth bass fingerlings to help supplement the native population. Today, the stocked bass make up about 40 percent of the bass population at Lake Trafford, and are generally at least 12 inches long.
Several agencies continue to work together to improve the long-term health of the lake, and their efforts are paying off. At a recent bass tournament, the winning team caught five fish that together weighed 28.2 pounds. The largest fish out of the bag weighed 7.5 pounds. The second-place team had a bag limit of five fish that totaled 25.4 pounds, with the largest fish weighing 6.7 pounds.
As if good fishing alone weren’t enough reason to fish Lake Trafford, the FWC’s TrophyCatch program just announced a special incentive. An award will be given to the angler who has the first bass heavier than 8 pounds from Lake Trafford that is approved for TrophyCatch recognition. This package contains several items, including a U.S. Reel casting reel, Glen Lau DVD, gift certificate for four adults at Airboats and Alligators at Lake Trafford Marina, in addition to standard TrophyCatch incentives.