TrophyCatch Helps Demonstrate Success of Lake Trafford Restoration

             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
JoNell Modys, jonellmodys@colliergov.net
Erin Smith, erinsmith@colliergov.net
Bob Wattendorf, FWC, 850-488-0520

TrophyCatch Helps Demonstrate Success of Lake Trafford Restoration

Naples, Fla.(May 6, 2015) – The bass are back at Lake Trafford, including a celebrated TrophyCatch

8-pound, 2-ounce Florida largemouth bass snagged by angler John Stewart. Stewart’s big bass is the first recorded TrophyCatch bass caught since Lake Trafford’s major restoration – a sign that the lake is on the way to reclaim its previous glory as a major bass fishing destination.

Stewart and his TrophyCatch were recognized at a press conference celebrating many of the recent tourism industry success stories in Collier County on Wednesday, May 6 as part of National Travel and Tourism Week.

During a February 2015 fishing tournament Stewart, 54, of Alva caught, documented and released an 8-pound, 2-ounce Florida largemouth bass on Lake Trafford. This bass, caught Feb. 7, showcases the remarkable recovery of fishing at Lake Trafford after years of restoration efforts led by citizens of Collier County, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Biologists with the FWC verified this impressive fish for the agency’s TrophyCatch conservation program.

“Our hats are off to angler John Stewart on his milestone TrophyCatch at Lake Trafford, and to the many partners that worked so hard over the past several years to restore the health of Lake Trafford,” said Jack Wert, Collier County’s tourism executive director.

FWC officials highlighted the lake’s restoration story at the Wednesday event at North Collier Regional Park and Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau staff presented a Florida’s Paradise Coast Prize Package for trophy catch angler John Stewart. The package includes a two-night stay at Hilton Naples, a trip with Capt. Mitch’s Everglades Private Airboat Tours, and an introdcutory sporting clay shooting lesson from a professional instructor at Gulf Coast Clays.

The Florida’s Paradise Coast prize package is in addition to the trophy catch incintives awarded to Stewart through the FWC’s TrophyCatch program. For making the first approved TrophyCatch submission from Lake Trafford, Stewart received prizes including a U.S. Reel casting reel, a Glen Lau DVD and a gift certificate from Airboats and Alligators at Lake Trafford Marina, as well as other standard TrophyCatch incentives.

Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades – offers some of the best fishing and outdoor adventure experiences in Florida. While the region is most famous for its saltwater fishing in the shallow water coastal estuaries and in the Gulf of Mexico, the area also has some excellent fresh water angling opportunities, especially in Florida’s largest natural freshwater lake south of Lake Okeechobee, Lake Trafford.

Lake Trafford, once a major bass fishing destination, suffered a severe ecological collapse that wiped out bass fishing. Over the past several years Lake Trafford has been the focus of a major multi-agency restoration project. Restoration efforts included the dredging of over 6 million cubic yards of muck from the lake and re-establishing native vegatation. In the past, the muck triggered algal blooms and fish kills.

“I am so very proud of the partnership built between our local community, Collier County, the FWC and partner agencies,” said FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy, “The grass-roots efforts by the local community, businesses and the people of Collier County set in motion the process that brought us to this successful conclusion -- this celebrated catch.”

After years of poor habitat conditions and a series of devastating fish kills, this catch highlights the remarkable recovery of fishing at Lake Trafford. Largemouth bass had been the sport fish species most impacted by the degraded habitat conditions over the past 20 years. Excessive amounts of muck lead to low oxygen levels that nearly eliminated the largemouth bass population from the lake. The lake’s poor condition also impacted bluegill, crappie and redear sunfish, but to a lesser extent. After dredging, the FWC stocked about 500,000 largemouth bass fingerlings to supplement the native Lake Trafford community and jump-start the recovery of the fishery.

“Almost four years ago to the day, I had the privilege of participating in the honorary ‘first cast’ into the freshly dredged Lake Trafford at the celebration of our collective restoration efforts,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “This is exactly the kind of success I envision for all the fish and wildlife of south Florida, including the Everglades, when I speak about our need to work together for the benefit of the environment.”

How are other anglers doing on Lake Trafford?  “A week after the tournament where John Stewart caught his fish, Gary Stenic caught an 8-and-3-quarter pounder,” said Lake Trafford Marina owner Ski Olesky, who also serves on the Collier County Tourism Development Council. “We’re seeing real improvement in the size and quality of bass being caught.”

About FWC’s TrophyCatch Program

TrophyCatch is an incentive-based conservation program designed for anglers who catch and release largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. For more information visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com. For more information on Lake Trafford and similar FWC freshwater restoration efforts go to MyFWC.com/Conservation and click on Freshwater programs.

About Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB
The Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is the official tourism marketing and management agency for Collier County, Florida, known as Florida’s Paradise Coast. The CVB produces the area’s ongoing destination marketing campaigns, website and visitor guides and provides information and assistance for travel media, group meeting and event planners, sports event planners, tour operators and travel agents. For more information visit  http://www.paradisecoast.com.br. Follow the destination on Twitter @ParadiseCoast and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheParadiseCoast.  

Lake Trafford photos available on FWC Flickr site. Go to: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk556yJP

Suggested Tweet: Lake Trafford #Trophycatch #bass demonstrates restoration success! #Florida #fishing #ParadiseCoast

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