Biologists can learn much about the Gulf recreational fishery from
anglers' reports of catching several species of snapper, grouper,
and gray triggerfish.
Learn How You Can Participate | View Preliminary
Results | Download a Catch Card
Since 2009, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) has conducted research on offshore recreational
fishing for a group of finfish species collectively termed reef
fish. These studies by the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research
Institute will continue through 2012 to monitor recreational
fisheries along the west Florida shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.
Reef fish include several dozen species of fish that are highly
sought after by both commercial harvesters and recreational
anglers, among them red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus),
gag (Mycteroperca microlepis), red grouper
(Epinephelus morio), black grouper (Mycteroperca
bonaci), vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens),
gray or mangrove snapper (Lutjanus griseus), and gray
triggerfish (Balistes capriscus).
Commercial landings of reef fish must be reported to state and
federal resource management agencies at the point of sale.
Understanding the recreational fisheries is also important to
resource managers, but with over 1 million anglers licensed in
Florida each year to fish recreationally for saltwater
species, collecting complete information is a big
Most recreational anglers support efforts to conserve natural
resources when scientific evidence supports the need. Without a
complete picture of fishing practices and the overall impacts of
recreational fishing, fisheries managers are often forced to take
conservative measures to ensure overfishing does not occur. The
goal of this research is to collect the best possible information
on recreational fisheries for reef fish off Florida's west
The research has two major components:
- Characterization of recreational fishing for reef fish in the
Gulf of Mexico, including types of gear used, areas and depths
fished, numbers of harvested and released fish, and handling of
released fish, as well as size, age, and sex of the catch.
- Evaluation of survival rates of reef fish released by
recreational anglers. FWC biologists accompany recreational anglers
on participating charter boats and headboats to record information
as fish are caught and handled. Reef fish that must be released due
to size limits or other restrictions will first be tagged.
Biologists observe the size and type of hook used, where the
fish was hooked, how the fish was handled (whether vented, whether
the hook was removed, whether a dehooker was used), from what depth
the fish was captured, whether the fish suffered trauma caused by
rapid ascent from deep waters, and whether effects vary for
different sizes and species of fish.
How can you help?
Fill out a catch
card. Researchers need volunteers to record details of
their next offshore recreational fishing trip, including tallies of
red snapper harvested and released. To receive a red snapper catch
card with free return postage, e-mail your complete mailing address
Or, if you don't mind paying postage, download a catch card.
Provide a return address with the completed catch card, and FWC
will send you a free adhesive fish ruler to place on your boat or
Report tagged fish. If you catch a tagged
snapper, grouper, or triggerfish, please record the tag number,
date and time of capture, location, species, length, and type of
bait used, and report whether you kept the fish. Do not remove the
tag from fish you release, so that scientists can continue to
collect recapture data. Call the Angler Tag Return Hotline at
1-800-367-4461 or e-mail tagreturn@MyFWC.com with this
information, and FWC will send you a free T-shirt.
Show researchers your catch. If you take a trip
on a charter boat or headboat with an FWC biologist on board, let
the researcher collect samples from your harvested fish and measure
and tag the ones you release.
Add your charter or headboat vessel to this
survey. If you are a charter or headboat vessel operator
and would like to invite an FWC biologist to accompany your fishing
trips, call (727) 896-8626 and ask for Beverly Sauls, or e-mail FishStats@MyFWC.com.
Thank you for your participation!