FWC Announces TrophyCatch Program

A hallmark of the long-term Florida Black Bass Management Plan, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved on June 9, 2011, will be a sensational new TrophyCatch angler recognition program. Florida intends to ensure that Florida is the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.

Representatives of the FWC, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and several corporate partners will be in Booth 2266 at ICAST, to discuss how industry partners can participate in the ground floor of this innovative conservation program. TrophyCatch will be a full-fleged intiative to document largemouth bass caught throughout Florida that are heavier than eight pounds and encourage their release. 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.

?ICAST is an exciting venue for FWC to announce TrophyCatch to the sportfishing community and to develop new partnerships with the industry and media,? said Tom Champeau, Director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. ?This progam, 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.?

Specific handling guidelines are being developed to ensure anglers do the best possible job of effectively releasing these fish while at the same time providing the FWC with valuable research and marketing information. FWC representatives will certify bass over 13-pounds caught from October through April for entry into the Florida Trophy Bass Hall of Fame. Sponsors, corporate partners and the media will help provide incentives to encourage reporting all such catches and releasing them. Industry representatives are encouraged to come by Booth 2266 to learn more about current plans and offer their own suggestions.

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, the state?s privatized tourism agency, and FWC will work with the media industry 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 constant buzz as anglers report new trophies and post photos. Such recognition will increase both resident and nonresident angler participation and enjoyment, tackle and license sales and tourism, and help to create the next generation that cares about our natural resources and outdoor recreational heritage.

Florida is the ?Fishing Capital of the World,? due to great resources and responsible management (www.FishingCapital.net). Facts from the last several National Surveys of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, and International Game Fish Association records help substantiate that claim. For instance, in Sportfishing in America: An Economic Engine and Conservation Powerhouse, based on the 2006 National Survey, Southwick Associates reported Florida ranked number one in total days fishing (46.3 million), in-state anglers (2.8 million), nonresident anglers (885,000), total angler expenditures ($4.4 billion) and total economic impact ($7.5 billion). This establishes Florida as the top ranked fishing market in the world.

However, those numbers depend on both saltwater and freshwater fishing combined. In Florida, more recreational fishing days are spent on fresh water (24.4 million days by 1.4 million anglers) than in salt water. Largemouth bass are not only the most sought after species in Florida but also in the nation. Bass anglers alone generate $1.25 billion dollars for Florida?s economy supporting thousands of jobs.

In March 2010, BassMaster Magazine (Mccormick 2010) summarized the first 12 years of its Lunker Club applications, reporting that, "Considering the number of largemouth entries the Lunker Club has received over more than a decade, it's not surprising that more entries have been caught in Florida (514 lunkers reported; 27.2%) than any other state.?

The IGFA record book shows in their 10-Pound Bass Club 123 of 412 entries coming from Florida. Amazingly, they document 10 bass up to 18.5 pounds that surpass the current state-certified record of 17.27 pounds (the uncertified state record is 20.13 pounds).

Florida has tremendously diverse bass fisheries comprising 3 million acres of water and 12,000 miles of fishable rivers and canals that are open year round. Tim O?Neil, a FWC marketing expert and liaison to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida (a public-support organization affiliated with FWC), pointed out that FWC and the Foundation want to work with the sportfishing industry. ?TrophyCatch is in it?s infancy but will grow quickly, and 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,? O?Neil said.

To set up an interview at ICAST about TrophyCatch, contact Tom Champeau (863.559.2233). More information is available at MyFWC.com/Fishing.

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