Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director, has been inducted into the American Fisheries Society’s Fisheries Management Hall of Excellence. The award was announced at the AFS annual meeting in Atlantic City with the presentation made at the Friends of Reservoirs workshop in Athens, Texas. Hall of Excellence (HOE) inductees are selected for their significant contributions in fisheries management, research, administration, education or the promotion of fisheries resource conservation and protection. Gene is the 61st inductee for what is recognized as fishery management’s highest honor.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Excellence is a humbling honor and I am very appreciative of this recognition,” Gilliland said. “Many of the early inductees were men whose books I used in college. Others were my advisors and the mentors who guided my career. Still others are colleagues that I work with in my current position with B.A.S.S. I count many of them as close personal friends.”
Gilliland was a research biologist, fisheries management supervisor and Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) over his 32-year career with the agency. He developed and evaluated black bass length limit regulations, formalized ODWC’s Florida largemouth bass stocking program and helped develop a statewide Black Bass Management Program. He published numerous manuscripts and became a leader in black bass management across the Southeast U.S.
Gene has always been an avid angler, becoming a member of B.A.S.S. in 1969. During his career with ODWC he recognized the importance of the angling community as partners in the management of the resource. Bridging the gap between biologist and angler, Gene’s reputation as a spokesperson for anglers in the decision-making process grew nationwide. His work as an agency-angler liaison was recognized in 2004 with the AFS Excellence in Fisheries Public Outreach Award and by the Fisheries Management Section’s Award of Excellence in 2005.
Gene was actively involved with B.A.S.S. Conservation throughout his career with ODWC and was a regular contributor on the topics of black bass biology and management to B.A.S.S. Times and other fishing publications. His research on improving survival of bass released following tournaments led to his co-authoring the booklet “Keeping Bass Alive” with Dr. Hal Schramm (also in the HOE). This publication has become the defining document for modern tournament fish care.
Gene retired from ODWC in 2013 to become B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director. The transition was seamless for both B.A.S.S. and Gene, as throughout his state agency career he worked closely with every former B.A.S.S. Conservation Director – Al Mills, Bruce Schupp (also in the HOE), Chris Horton and Noreen Clough.
As Conservation Director, Gene oversees the activities of 47 B.A.S.S. Nation Chapters, serves on numerous national boards and councils, including the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, and the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council. Gene has been an active participant in the American Sportfishing Association’s Government Affairs Committee and continues to serve as an advocate for anglers and the resources that the sport depends upon.
Hall of Excellence inductee plaques and highlights of their careers and contributions to the fisheries management profession are now online.