In September of 2017, the Executive Committee of the Quiet Lakes Improvement Association produced a poster that will help anglers on Teal and Lost Land lakes to confidently distinguish between largemouth bass and smallmouth bass (click on PDF link below). Our intent was to support recent changes made by Wisconsin DNR — encouraging increased harvest of largemouth bass while continuing to promote catch-and-release of smallmouth bass.
Until 2014, seasons and length limits were identical for largemouth and smallmouth bass. On the Quiet Lakes and throughout the Northern Bass Zone, anglers could fish for bass but were required to release them from the first Saturday in May through the third Friday in June (catch-and-release-only season). After the harvest season opened in late June, all bass less than 14 inches long had to be released immediately after being caught. These highly restrictive regulations allowed largemouth bass populations to expand greatly over time, much to the dismay of Quiet Lakes anglers who strongly preferred a walleye-dominated fishery.
Starting in 2014, the early “catch-and-release-only” season for largemouth bass was removed in the Northern Bass Zone, leveling the playing field by making largemouth bass legal to harvest on the same opening day (first Saturday in May) as walleye and northern pike. And starting in 2016, the 14-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass was removed on Teal and Lost Land lakes, thus ending decades of over-protection of increasingly abundant, slow-growing fish. Neither of these changes applied to smallmouth bass. This shift in strategy was consistent with our desire to reduce numbers of largemouth bass while increasing numbers of smallmouth bass, which had not over-populated and are not known to eat or compete with walleyes. Our harvest guidance poster was developed in order to help anglers distinguish between these species with confidence, and to understand why it is important to take advantage of the nutritional qualities of largemouth bass while releasing smallmouth bass in order to sustain a fun catch-and-release bass fishery more compatible with walleyes.
A common myth is that largemouth bass are not good to eat. Nonsense! Largemouth bass are fine food fish when harvested from the clean, cool waters of Teal and Lost Land lakes in spring, summer, and fall. For a heart-healthy recipe that will have you routinely adding largemouth bass to your Friday night fish fries, click on the following link, provided courtesy of Sandy Neuswanger.