Florida Hybrid Sunshine Bass

By DONALD DEBEVOISE
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will put more than 3 million fish into Florida’s waters this year, a good portion of which will be a special hybrid of bass. The agency says the fish is beneficial to both anglers and the environment.

There will be a little more “sunshine” in Florida, as the FWC plans to ship out its special sunshine bass breed next spring.

Biologists originally bred the fish in 1971 as a cross between female white bass and male striped bass. Sunshine bass differ physically from their parent species because of broken horizontal lines running across their bodies. The fish also inhabit a different niche of the environment from that of their parent species. A spokesman for the Blackwater Hatchery in Holt, Florida, Dave Yeager, says this allows for a more diverse fishing season, especially in North Florida.

“Up here, the largemouth bass and brim are mainly in the littoral areas along the shoreline, and the hybrids are schooling fish that occupy open water,” Yeager says. “So they’ll feed out in the center of the river on shad and mullet.”

Yeager says in South Florida, systems like Lake Ida the sunshine bass help to maintain the environment by keeping populations of smaller fish in check.

“Another reason we stock sunshines, especially down in South Florida in more eutrophic systems, is that they feed a lot on shad,” he says. “In eutrophic systems there’s usually a large number of shad that sometimes negatively affect the population.”

Sunshine bass live three-to-five years and are sterile, meaning they can’t breed or become invasive. Yeager says even if they do become a problem, the FWC only needs to stop restocking them.