Ricci Head of Shawnee, OK, landed the first tagged fish in the inaugural Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge.

From The Friends of Lake Apopka

The Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA) congratulates angler Ricci Head of Shawnee, OK who landed the first tagged fish in the inaugural Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge.

Head caught a 4.36-pound largemouth bass on Tuesday, Jan. 26 in Lake Apopka. When he noticed that the fish had been tagged, he cut the tag off and reported the catch to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 

Head is an avid fisherman and told FWC biologists that he has been coming for years to fish in Lake Apopka, once regarded as the bass fishing capital of Florida.

Still swimming somewhere in the 30,000-acre Lake Apopka is a 12-pound largemouth bass dubbed “Jim Thomas” after FOLA’s founder. The angler who catches “Jim Thomas” during the contest period and returns the tag to the FWC, will be awarded a $2,500 cash prize from FOLA. Additionally, if the angler submits the catch to the FWC’s TrophyCatch program – in accordance with TrophyCatch rules – he or she will win an additional $2,500, bringing the total grand prize to $5,000. 

TrophyCatch is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, (BPS). The unique partnership between TrophyCatch and BPS demonstrates the company’s investment in Florida bass fishing and highlights the innovative research this event will produce. 

The total purse of prizes in the Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge is more than $10,000. Anglers like Head who catch any of the other tagged fish in the Challenge –  and return the tags to the FWC – will be entered into a prize pool for one of more than a dozen additional prizes, including a $1,000 cash first prize donated by Empire Finish Systems; six $500 cash third prizes and nine $100 cash prizes. Prizes will be awarded in June after the Challenge ends on May 30, 2021.

Also during this special competition, the angler who submits the largest TrophyCatch-approved bass from Lake Apopka – not including the “Jim Thomas” bass – will also win an additional $500 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards. 

TrophyCatch, the FWC’s largemouth bass conservation program, rewards anglers who provide documentation of their catch-and-release of largemouth bass weighing eight pounds or heavier in Florida. In order to be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, showing the entire fish and its weight on a scale, before releasing it back into the water. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries and to promote the catch and release of trophy bass. The FWC encourages anglers to submit the trophies they catch on Lake Apopka for conservation and prizing.

For full contest rules, a full list of prizes, and more information about the Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge, please visit FOLA’s website at www.fola.org.

The Friends of Lake Apopka is a citizen advocacy group dedicated to restoring Lake Apopka to its once-pristine condition. For more information, please visit our website at www.fola.org.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for conserving and managing fish and wildlife, and their habitats for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. This responsibility is met with a combination of research, management, recreational opportunities, outreach, and law enforcement. This includes conservation programs for imperiled species; land acquisition to provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife species; managing terrestrial, marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats to benefit the widest possible array of fish and wildlife while providing quality recreational experiences such as hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.

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