Fishing Tournament Designed to Boost Conservation In Florida
The thrill of landing a big saltwater fish lures many avid anglers to pursue Florida's great sport-fishing opportunities. Most anglers want these experiences to be available in the future, too. So, when an occasion to pursue big fish coincides with a chance to contribute to the future of fishing in Florida, you can imagine that there is a lot of interest.That is exactly what is expected with the upcoming Big Reds Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 13, in the Indian River Lagoon on Florida's Atlantic coast.The Wildlife Foundation of Florida is hosting the Big Reds Tournament to raise awareness about the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative and to create an opportunity for anglers to help develop East Coast hatcheries. The Foundation, the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC) and their partners in the initiative are creating a network of statewide hatcheries to provide fish for the present and the future. This public and private partnership was established to help maintain healthy populations of Florida's marine sport fish.The Initiative is building on the stock-enhancement program begun by the FWC in the late 1980s. FWC researchers at the Stock Enhancement Research Facility in Port Manatee have raised and released more than 6 million juvenile redfish on Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts.To ensure that hatchery-raised fish do not harm wild stocks, researchers monitor the health and genetic diversity of these fish. Ongoing research conducted by FWC scientists and their partners continues to move Florida in the direction of developing marine fisheries stock to complement other fisheries management tools, such as fishing regulations and habitat restoration.One of the initial steps in establishing an East Coast hatchery is to collect a breeding stock. For this purpose, the FWC and its partners need to collect mature, healthy fish from Florida's East Coast. To accomplish this task, the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative created a unique opportunity for anglers to participate in the effort: The Big Reds Tournament.The tournament invites registered anglers to collect live, healthy redfish from the Indian River Lagoon. An event like this requires some special planning and some special rules. Since the goal of the tournament is to collect live fish that will be transferred to hatchery tanks, it is critical that participants handle the fish they catch carefully and properly.Participating anglers will be provided with an FWC Special Activity License to allow for harvest of over-the-slot-limit redfish for hatchery purposes, and they will be required to attend a briefing that includes fish-handling guidelines. Chase boats in the tournament fishing areas will pick up the fish from the anglers and place them in onboard livewells or holding nets. After the event, trained personnel will safely transport the fish to their destination.Partner organizations assisting the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the FWC with this effort include Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Harbor Branch at Florida Atlantic University, Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Institute of Technology.The guiding theme for the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative is ensuring Florida's saltwater resources continue to provide great fishing opportunities for current and future anglers. For more information about the initiative and the tournament, visit www.MyFMFEI.org.