Results of scientific study in Johnson County may impact region’s economy

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Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 7:46 PM EST
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Anglers for Improving Opportunities (AFIO) is a nonprofit organization searching for way to impact Eastern Kentucky fisheries and leave them better than they found them.

In April 2022, AFIO partnered with Major League Fishing (MLF), the Kentucky Team Trail (formerly the East Kentucky Team Trail), and an independent scientist to conduct a DNA study of the bass population of Paintsville Lake during a KTT event.

“We had 97 samples that day and we sent those off to Steven Bardin with Major League Fishing, who’s helped us throughout this entire process, and then he sent those to Auburn, which is the same place that everybody in the country sends their data for DNA evidence,” said AFIO President Jason Kinner.

The study was conducted in order to determine if Florida Largemouth DNA had already made its way to Paintsville Lake, thus determining the feasibility of stocking the lake with “F1″ bass.

F1 bass are a “intergrade” bass with 50% Florida Largemouth DNA and 50% Northern Largemouth DNA that grow much bigger and much faster than Northern Largemouth bass typically seen in Eastern Kentucky waters. These fish are seen as “trophy bass” due to their quick growth rate.

The results of the study were finalized on Wednesday and shows that Paintsville Lake does have a large percentage of Florida Largemouth DNA in its bass population, and, in its 97 samples, one bass was already found to be a F1. This data challenges the beliefs of many of the country’s top scientists on just how far the Florida Largemouth had spread into states north of Tennessee.

“Judging by our data, that line is much further north now than anyone realized,” said Kinner. “We think this is game changing data, we think that that biologists throughout the state, maybe even West Virginia and other states, can use our data and our information to possibly improve their fisheries.”

Kinner says that in previous studies, the regular stocking of F1 bass has an impact on the local economy in other lakes across the country. These trophy bass drive tourism in the area by bringing anglers into the region. The regular stocking of these fish also provides more opportunities for the next generation of Eastern Kentucky anglers.

“As anglers, if we can come out here from a conservation standpoint and get involved, you know, make a positive impact, you know, for me, if a young kid could come out here and have that experience of catching maybe a five, six, seven-pound bass, that’s what it’s all about, you know?” said Kinner.

Kinner also added that you can visit the AFIO website for more information about the study and anglers can check out the AFIO Facebook page to find out how to get involved.