Big catches still stroke angler egos
Fish Busters' Bulletin
Monday, August 01, 2011
Media contact: Bob Wattendorf, 850-488-0520
When humans and fish were evolving together, catching and
consuming fish was a matter of survival. Later, catches offered
something to barter or sell. Now, most people fish recreationally.
Regardless of the purpose behind fishing, big catches stroke the
Today, recreational fishing has an annual $7.5 billion economic
impact in Florida. Habitat conservation and regulations help
sustain these fisheries, but with greater demand it is increasingly
important to protect and recycle the largest trophy fish by also
promoting voluntary catch-and-release.
Florida's "Big Catch" angler recognition program helps stroke
the ego of successful anglers by allowing them to show off their
prowess. The Big Catch program provides a framable, full-color
certificate and window sticker for anglers who catch any of 33
species of listed freshwater fishes that exceed a minimum length or
weight. If people catch five qualifying fish of the same species,
they are recognized as a Specialist. If they report five qualifying
fish of different species, they become a Master Angler, and if they
take and report qualifying fish representing 10 different species,
they are an Elite Angler.
Young people can enter fish that are approximately 25 percent
smaller than adult qualifying sizes.
Big Catch also encourages anglers to fish for a variety of
species and to travel to locate them, while promoting appropriate
catch and release.
A new set of "TrophyCatch" marks and awards are in the works for
trophy bass anglers. The TrophyCatch angler recognition program
will be the hallmark of the long-term Florida Black Bass Management
Plan, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC) approved in June. The FWC intends to ensure that Florida is
the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.
TrophyCatch will be a full-fledged initiative to document
largemouth bass caught, and preferably released, throughout Florida
that are heavier than 8 pounds. Incremental rewards and recognition
will be provided to anglers reporting bass in the 8-10, 10-12,
12-13 and greater than 13-pound categories.
The anticipated rollout for TrophyCatch is October 2012.
"This program, driven by private dollars, can substantially
enhance Florida bass fishing by addressing ecological issues and
encouraging recycling of trophy bass, but it will also have a great
social and economic impact," said Tom Champeau, director of the
FWC's Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.
Biologists are developing specific handling guidelines to ensure
anglers do the best possible job of effectively releasing these
fish while providing the FWC with valuable research and marketing
information. FWC representatives will certify bass over 13 pounds
caught from October through April (beginning in 2012) for entry
into the Florida Trophy Bass Hall of Fame. Sponsors, corporate
partners and the media will provide incentives to encourage
reporting and releasing all such catches.
Fisheries biologists will use TrophyCatch reports to identify
Florida's best bass fisheries to determine which management
practices (e.g., habitat and aquatic plant management, regulations,
stocking) are most effective in creating trophy fisheries. VISIT
FLORIDA and the FWC will work with the media to use this
information to establish Florida as a prime trophy bass fishing
destination. Incorporating social media and online mapping
resources will make this information widely available to the public
and create a buzz as anglers report new trophies and post
Such recognition will increase both resident and nonresident
angler participation and enjoyment, tackle and license sales,
tourism and help create the next generation that cares about our
natural resources and outdoor recreational heritage.
In Florida, more recreational fishing days are spent on fresh
water (24.4 million days by 1.4 million anglers) than on salt
water. Largemouth bass are the most sought-after species not only
in Florida but also in the nation. Bass anglers alone generate
$1.25 billion for our economy, supporting thousands of jobs.
Consequently, promoting and safeguarding Florida's trophy bass
fisheries is good for everyone.
Tim O'Neil, an FWC marketing expert and liaison to the Wildlife
Foundation of Florida - a public-support organization affiliated
with the FWC - said that the FWC and the Foundation want to work
with the sportfishing industry. "TrophyCatch is in its infancy but
will grow quickly. We want to work with the best and brightest in
the corporate world to make this a win-win-win for the environment,
anglers and industry."
Learn more at MyFWC.com/Fishing (select "Freshwater Fishing"
then "Big Catch"). Send suggestions for ways to enhance these
partner-driven programs to Bob.Wattendorf@MyFWC.com.
With a record of trophy catches, we hope to reaffirm our status
as the Fishing Capital of the World and become the undisputed Bass
Fishing Capital of the World.