Updated: Nov 30, 2016 – 5:39 PM

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Workers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were out at Lake Apopka Wednesday dropping net after net of Florida bass into the water as part of an ongoing cleanup effort.

Fingerlings will be released into the lake three times a week for the next three weeks until 1 million fish have been stocked, FWC officials said.

The first batch of Florida widemouth bass come from the state’s bass conservation center.

Experts have been working to clean up Lake Apopka after decades of fertilizer runoff from surrounding farms caused an unhealthy buildup of toxic sludge.

Photos: 1 million Florida bass added to Lake Apopka

“The vegetation and habitat got so poor that natural reproduction went almost to zero,” said Brandon Thompson, a FWC fisheries research biologist.

The FWC has been planting underwater vegetation and other groups have been cleaning the water. With the addition of the 1 million bass, the hope is the lake will be clean enough that people will be able to eat the fish when they’re large enough to keep in two years.

Along with the environmental benefits of restocking the lake’s fish, officials also expect to see an economic improvement in the area as Lake Apopka becomes a fishing destination.

“We see really high growth rates for these bass,” FWC spokesman Brandon Thompson said. “Some of the bass that we see out there are some of the biggest that I see when we go out and do our sampling … around the state.”

The 30,000 acres of water averages a few fish per acre, and the kind of fishing that attracts tourism and brings in money requires more fish.

“Part of that stigma that hangs over Lake Apopka is that ability to eat the fish. They pass the standards now,” said Dennis Renfro, FWC fisheries resource manager.

The Department

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