Anglers Count!

Submitted by Brett Fitzgerald on June, Jun 1, 2012


Notes from a fantastic contest and party.

June 2012 was a huge month for fishery data collection, and the Anglers Count! Derby led the charge.

A fleet of anglers all along Florida’s east coast entered the derby and logged their catches for the purpose of contributing to a better fishery. After the month-long event completed and the final numbers were tallied (hundreds of fish, thousands of fishing hours), the recognition bash at River Palms Fish Camp and Resort in Jensen Beach was a fantastic success

The derby, originally dreamed up by our Executive Director Rick Roberts, brought some new and very diligent AAP users to the table. Many of the participants had never used the program before, and some of them have already become very consistent data contributors.

Some of our “old timers” participated in the derby as well. Capt. Danny Barrow of Lake Worth was one of the very first anglers to log back when we first started, and he is still going strong. Participating in the derby was a no brainer for him. “I log my fish, that’s what I do. I tell all my clients about the program and encourage them to do the same, because I understand how important this data is. I go to the FWC meetings and listen to people talk – I watch the commissioners try to figure out how to best manage our fish, and I’m convinced that right now, this data is the only way we can truly help them get it right.”

Capt. Danny is right, of course. The AAP answers questions we’ve been asking about our fish populations for a long time, such as how many fish are people catching? How many are they releasing? Where are the populations strongest? Where are they weakest? Are the released fish large enough to participate in the next spawning event? And so on.

Thanks to Capt. Danny, the other anglers that fished the derby, and our crew of volunteers, June was a huge month of data. In fact, it had the highest number of individual trips since the inception of the AAP, and over half of those entries were from derby participants.

The recognition bash in Jensen beach was the perfect endcap to the event. Over 130 anglers, their friends and families converged for an afternoon of live music (compliments of local blues legend Joey George), fantastic food (a pig roasted by SGF Chairman Jim Bandy, and a massive spread of food provided by SAM’s Club), and of course a prize raffle that saw many cool fishing and boating toys go out to our derby participants.

Most of the prize pool was donated by West Marine stores. It is important to note the significance of our industry partners, and not just because they donated a ton of product. West Marine has been a supporter of the AAP from the beginning, and this underscores the reality of the program and its place in today’s fishery management scheme. Without a healthy fishery, the marine industry will suffer. West Marine wisely sees their support of the AAP as an investment in their future business success, and thanks to our forward thinking partners we have been able to grow the program.

Aside from prizes that were drawn from a lottery-style system for derby participants, recognition awards went out to anglers who distinguished themselves from the crowd during the derby.

Allen Johnson (Stuart, FL), who logged a trip nearly every single day, was recognized for logging the most eligible trips during the derby.

"What helped was that my wife works on the water, right near a great snook spot. Every time I'd visit her for lunch, I could run out back and catch a snook or two." Or more - there were plenty of logs by Allen that included snook and other species in the double-digits, and he frequently posted photos. Even more important, Allen recorded a lot of very small snook. That location data will help us pinpoint critical nursery habitat for snook and many other species of gamefish.

Ray Base (Boynton Beach, FL) was recognized as the "Most Dedicated" logger, as he also logged a high number of trips (19 in 30 days). The difference was that he struggled through helping us solve new app glitches. Thanks to Ray's perseverance and feedback he was able to report, "the system seems to be working well now, including trips the last couple days and good sync!"   Both Ray and Allen exemplify the modern angler - not only very skilled, but also informed and dedicated to contributing to a better fishing future.

Larry Jones (Port St. Lucie, FL)received an award for his volunteer service for the derby and bash. "Everyone on our committee helped us out," said Holly Andreotta, who chaired the tournament and bash. "But Larry's extra efforts resulted in much of our success."
Looking ahead, the derby concept seems to be a very successful method of promoting the AAP. You can expect to see a slightly modified format for new AAP Anglers Count derby-style contests start popping up in the near future, with opportunities for anglers to participate all over Florida and beyond.