Going to Great Lengths for Gamefish

Submitted by Brett Fitzgerald on May, May 23, 2012



 

As the sun was breaking above the horizon the bite suddenly turned on…every cast was followed by a quick flash exploding in that feeling we love:  “Fish On!”   In fact,  one on after another...  Every fish in this bunch was a short.  None were keepers.   We could have caught as many as we wanted - they would hit cast after cast, but we decided to move on…

The focus of sport fishing is centered on catching nice big fish, the bigger the better. And for many the opportunity of taking a few fish home for the frying pan is part of the adventure.  That’s the recreational fishing game.  

But for Fishery Managers the goal of the game is to keep fish populations in balance. For them, the small ones are just as important as the giants.  Their goal is accomplished by studying fisheries and setting slots, limits and seasons, thus limiting impacts of fishing to levels that  whole fish populations can sustain.

Keeping Track of Fish Stocks Isn't Easy

 

Getting a clear picture of  whole fish populations through a variety of methods of sampling is the work of scientists like Dr. Bob Muller.   Dr.Muller started the stock assessment group for the research arm of Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute more than 20 years ago, and FWC’s position as a leader in proactive fishery management rests in part on his solid groundwork.   

Dr. Muller recently received the Florida Guide Association’s  “Capt. Phil Chapman Conservation Award” for his contributions to fisheries stock assessments.  

When SGF asked  “What would you like to receive from anglers to make stock assessments even better in the future? “  his reply was simple:    "Your Angler Action site currently is collecting the type of information we need, i.e. date, time, location, number of anglers...and the sizes of all fish caught, not just the harvested fish."

Both anglers and scientists like to see that plenty of fish are available of all sizes:  the whoppers, the keepers, and the young fish that will become the next generations.   

Dr. Muller explains:  "The sizes of fish have to be considered in context.  We like to see a balance between small fish and large fish."

Keeping a high number of potential spawners is the goal of traditional fish management strategies.

Having a large supply of up & coming (under slot)  fish is a hedge against adversity such as fish kills from weather or other toxic events.  Abundant and diverse food sources, essential habitat and natural predators are key ecosystem features that round out a healthy fishery..
 

The future for Recreational Angler Data
 

As to the future of Recreational Angler Data and Stock Assessment, Dr. Muller had this to say:  "With enough years of data, we can use the Angler Action as another catch per trip index.  Right now, we are able to use the size of fish for our stock assessments, and this is the data we need."

 

We hope that being able to track on the numbers of young fish  could also help anticipate and avert crises.  Eventually, more timely and localized data will allow for quicker management interventions, as anglers and managers learn how to best utilize real time reporting .

How to Record Your Catch & Lengths

Use an on-the-water  trip log (or phone apps June 1).  The new Angler Action program makes it easier than ever to record all sizes of more than 100 species of  fish and shellfish, and their locations.  Try it out:  www.angleraction.org.   If you fish the Atlantic Coast, sign up now for the Anglers Count Atlantic Derby, and get a chance to win prizes for every trip you log between June 1-30.