State restocking Lake Apopka with 1 million bass
Long before Bryan Nelson's family moved to Central Florida to grow roses, his grandfather journeyed often from South Carolina to fish in Lake Apopka.
The bass from the giant freshwater lake were big and tasty back then.
But it's been at least half a century since Nelson, 57, or anyone else in his family has cast a fishing line into the lake better known to this generation as one of the state's most polluted, large freshwater bodies.
On Wednesday, Nelson stood at the edge of a levee, watching hopefully as biologists with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission poured more than 100,000 fingerling bass into the lake. Over the next three weeks, they will add a million bass to the water.
"Someday, my grandson, who's 18 months, may fish here like my grandfather once did," said Nelson, an Orange County commissioner.
Raised in a state hatchery, the little fish grew from the size of a grain of salt to the length of a pinky finger in five weeks, said Rick Stout, hatchery manager. They should continue to grow quickly if not eaten by other fish.
If they survive — and wildlife officials predict perhaps no more than 10 percent or 15 percent will — they could grow into trophy-sized, large-mouth bass in four to five years.