< Points of Interest



  • Introduction
  • Reclamation of Phosphate Mining Lands
  • Fisheries Research and Management


Tenoroc Fish Management Area is a 6,000 acre tract of land that was mined for phosphates until the mid 1970's. It is located 2 miles northeast of Lakeland, Florida in an area that is typical of Polk County. Numerous phosphate mines existed in the county which created thousands of acres of lakes or "phosphate pits" that remained after the mining operations were completed.

The numerous phosphate pits support outstanding sport fisheries for largemouth bass and panfish. Unfortunately, most of such areas are privately controlled and are off-limits to the general public. In 1982, Borden Inc. donated this property to the state of Florida. It contained approximately a thousand acres of lakes and provided the state with a unique challenge to develop recreational activities on this disturbed site. Of those activities considered, public fishing was the primary use requested by the local residents.

In 1983, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists began to evaluate the fisheries at Tenoroc by developing a fish management plan that was grounded in extensive research studies. The research was directed at testing a variety of restrictive harvest regulations on largemouth bass in an attempt to maintain high quality fishing success. The studies yielded important information to biologists that now directly benefit anglers.

Tenoroc offers additional recreational uses including small game hunting, target shooting, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife observation. Other opportunities such as aquatic and environmental education programs are being developed.

Reclamation Of Phosphate Mining Lands

Florida is one of the world's largest producers of phosphate. Modern phosphate production is concentrated in central Florida were extensive deposits of pebble phosphate are surface mined. Approximately 1.3 million acres of land, east of Tampa, have phosphate deposits on them. Prior to July 1, 1975, more than a 149,000 acres were mined and disturbed by phosphate operations. Unfortunately, mining practices often destroy high-quality habitat for wildlife and waste products from the mining process can have an adverse effect on water quality.

The state of Florida enacted a law in 1975 which required the reclamation of each individual acre of land that is mined to a level that is suitable for beneficial use or habitat. The standards that the law requires refer specifically to safety, hydrology, contouring, revegetation, wildlife habitat, and the timing of reclamation. Complete restoration in which the land is returned to its original condition is required for only wetland areas. The uses of reclamation land include areas for recreation, pasturage, industry, homes, and wetland/wildlife sanctuaries.

There are two stages of reclamation: contouring and revegetation. Contouring is the stage in which the mined land is reshaped to resemble pre-mining topography and drainage. Revegetation provides for the placement of native habitat and plant communities as well as for agricultural opportunities. Once reclamation has been satisfactorily completed in accordance with the rules, the operator may be released from further obligation to perform reclamation. Tenoroc Fish Management Area is a positive example of what reclamation can do. The success of revegetation and the high water quality of the lakes is evident in the thousands of fish that are caught and released in the many lakes every year.

Source of the information - Bureau Of Mine Reclamation, Florida Department Of Environmental Protection

Fisheries Research And Management

The rapid increase in Florida anglers, coupled with improved fishing expertise, has resulted in unprecedented demands on available fish resources. Recent survey results also indicate most largemouth bass anglers desire to catch more quality size fish and they want better opportunities to catch a trophy size bass. To meet these needs, progressive research strategies and management techniques for bass and other sport fishes have become necessary to ensure the future of Florida fishing. It was this type of public pressure that motivated the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to become involved in research that would give the citizens of Florida a sustainable fish resource.

Fishery research at Tenoroc originally focused on restrictive regulations to limit the harvest of largemouth bass and attempted to meet high angler expectations. A wide variety of experimental bass harvest regulations were evaluated including various length limits, reduced bag limits, total catch and release, and time of year restrictions. Fishing quotas were also established for each lake to keep fishing pressure at controlled levels. By rigidly controlling bass harvest, biologists found that bass live longer, and as a result, grew larger. Research also revealed higher catch rates were maintained by releasing bass, which were often recycled and caught again and again by other fishermen. Since many bass fishermen were already practicing "catch and release", this approach to regulating fisheries quickly became popular with Tenoroc anglers.

Research findings revealed that restrictive harvest regulations were extremely beneficial in maintaining better quality bass fisheries and angler success. By comparison, in other controlled lakes with liberal state regulations that allow the best fish to be harvested, bass population and catch rates deteriorated rapidly. Of all the bass regulations evaluated, the no harvest restrictions prove to be the most positive and consistent. Based on this research and the support of Tenoroc fisherman, the current management strategy now relies on total catch and release, or very limited harvests of largemouth bass.

Tenoroc research also determined that black crappie populations were drastically reduced by excessive harvest. Although crappie are much less susceptible to overfishing than largemouth bass, it became necessary to implement special size and bag limits on this fishery. Staff biologist expect crappie fishing success to improve to previous levels. By restricting the number and size of crappie that anglers may take home, the goal is to increase average sizes and extend the lives of these typically cyclic fisheries.

Other fish species at Tenoroc, including bluegill, redear sunfish, white catfish, and yellow and brown bullhead, are much less affected by fishing pressure and require little management. Channel catfish and sunshine bass (a striped bass hybrid), are also stocked periodically in several lakes to provide additional fishing opportunities.

Fishing will always remain a Commission priority at Tenoroc; however, they have moved towards the management aspect of fishery biology and away from basic research. New management direction will also include habitat enhancement efforts and an additional fish stocking of major lakes when appropriate. Plans to improve angler access, including the physically challenged, are currently under way.

Copyright © 2010 The Florida Geographic Alliance