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Red Tide Makes Angler Data as Important as Ever

Written by James Schulz

By now, all Florida anglers have at least heard about how bad this year’s red tide bloom is, if not spent the past few months living through it.

Due to the unusually severe impacts of this bloom, FWC has banned the harvest of two popular gamefish in the region, snook, and red drum.

Rightfully so, anglers are concerned. Frankly, everyone is.

The good news is, anglers can once again help in very important ways, much like we have in the past.

In some ways, this has a familiar feel to many Florida residents who have lived here for more than 10 years. In 2010, a historic cold snap prompted FWC to close snook harvest because of an unusually high kill rate.

This is not much different, and once again FWC researchers are in a bind. In order to assess the health of the closed fisheries (and all of the others too), they need data. Angler data is a critical component.

Unfortunately with no harvest, there is no chance to intercept certain fish at the docks, severely limiting the information available.

Dr. Robert Muller is in charge of the stock assessments completed by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), and he’s been at the helm for a few assessments that have used iAngler data directly in the assessment.

The data was important then, and it is extremely helpful and important now, he said. “FWRI used size information from the Angler Action database in three recent stock assessments: Common Snook, Red Drum, and Spotted Seatrout,” Dr. Muller noted.

When it comes to the red tide issues today, Dr. Muller agrees that the data might be more important than ever.

“As for my ideas in red tide-affected areas, I think that getting information on fishing activity during closures is very important. Closures can be considered catch and release fishing and having information on those trips lets us monitor what is occurring even when there are no landings.”

In 2010, thanks to concerned snook fisherwomen and men, Angler Action data came in hot and heavy and was put to immediate use.

Researchers always stick to the rule of using the ‘best available data,” and when it comes to recreational angler info on the fish we let go, Angler Action is the best – and really the only – game in town.

For all Florida anglers, Dr. Muller’s words should be a strong motivator to start reporting our fishing trips in Angler Action.

Most of us loggers tend to do so through the free app, iAngler, but it can be done directly through the website www.angleraction.org as well.

Dr. Muller went on to make a couple more points about this critical data.

“What would be useful for evaluating red tide effects would be the fish condition field. Your survey already asks the right questions, I would just like to see more complete responses and from more locations. Remember I always want more data.”

The data field that Dr. Muller is referring to is the “Release Condition” field in the app. The pull-down menu for this field makes for fast and easy reporting, where we can enter options such as “swam away straight and fast, eaten by a predator, floated” and others.

This information, plus the location (at least the county where you fished), species, and size of the fish round out the most important fields that will contribute greatly as we try to understand the total impact of all of our fish species in Florida.

If you think Dr. Muller is excited about the potentials of self-reported angler data, you are spot-on correct.

He has an eye towards a brighter fishing future.

“If we can calibrate your catch data, we could, with a few more years of data, develop indices from the volunteer angler data that also could be included in assessments.

Calibration is necessary because anglers that use your database have the potential to be even more effective because they are interested enough to take their time and to contribute their data.”

The whole trip logging process is free, easy, and allows the fishers to own a comprehensive fishing logbook that is password protected.

If you want to help researchers understand how to best help our fisheries recover from red tide and other events, you now have the motivation to download iAngler and start logging.

If you are interested in helping for years to come and are like the millions of other anglers who have at some point muttered “I wish I had been keeping a fishing journal,” well now you have the motivation to continue to log for the rest of your fishing future. The data will only become more powerful in every way.

  • “Thanks also to the Snook and Gamefish Foundation for providing the Angler Action Program data on the sizes of fish caught and released. These data, especially the sizes of released fish, are vital for assessing the stocks”   -acknowledgments, 2015 FWRI Stock Assessment

If you fish, please take 2 minutes to download the free app and create your angler profile. Then log your most recent trip as well as your upcoming trips.

One final note: trips, where you don’t catch anything, are just as important as your best days.

Your personal logbook will be useless without the ‘no catch’ information included – the same goes for stock assessment uses.

So log ‘em all!

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