“Gone Coastal” column By Delsabriana Gonzalez
Did you know there are multiple ways you can contribute to fishery data collection as a recreational angler? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) collects data in many ways including mail surveys, dockside interviews and even a phone app. The information you provide helps scientists and managers monitor annual harvest levels, determine the health of a fishery and create critical fisheries stock assessments. With better, more precise data, we can keep Florida’s fisheries sustainable and productive, now and for generations to come.
We encourage all anglers to participate in all our data collection programs, even if you haven’t made it out on the water this year.
Ways to participate
The Marine Recreational Information Program Survey is a state/regional/federal partnership that uses a variety of methods to measure total recreational fishing catch in Florida and across the southeastern U.S. A mail survey is used to collect information on your recreational fishing effort (i.e., how many fishing trips you took) for all types of saltwater fish and other factors about your fishing trips. You can learn more about MRIP by going to Fisheries.NOAA.gov.
Gulf Reef Fish Survey
FWC created the Gulf Reef Fish Survey to supplement the broad MRIP survey and improve data collection on key reef fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. All recreational anglers are required to sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler if they are fishing from a private boat on Florida’s Gulf coast (excluding Monroe County) and plan to target any of the following species: red and vermilion snappers; gag, black and red groupers; gray triggerfish; greater amberjack; and other jack species. Sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler for free via FWC’s licensing system (GoOutdoorsFlorida.com) or in-person at any location that sells licenses: retailers; tackle shops; or tax collectors.
Once you are signed up, you may be randomly selected to receive a survey in the mail. The information you provide is used to estimate the total number of recreational fishing trips for reef fish off the west coast of Florida.
If you receive the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, it’s important to return it as soon as possible even if you didn’t fish in the Gulf or weren’t able to take any recreational fishing trips during the past month. We want to hear from everyone.
Catch-data for both MRIP and GRFS is collected via dockside interviews. FWC biologists conduct these in-person interviews at randomly selected sites, such as boat ramps, marinas and docks, where recreational anglers may be returning from their trips. Information gathered may include the numbers and types of fish harvested and released as well as other details about your recent trip. They may even ask to take a few biological samples, such as the weight and length of your fish. If you have a few minutes to spare, we encourage you to participate. The trip-level catch information you provide is critical to estimating recreational catch and can help more than you think.
Voluntary phone app
If you want to provide even more information about your recent fishing trip, you can download the iAngler smartphone app, created by the Angler Action Foundation. From red snapper to spotted seatrout, use the iAngler app to log your catches, increase your success on the water and help fisheries science. Download the app today from your smartphone’s app store, and learn more by going to GulfRedSnapper.org. If you choose to use the voluntary app, you will still be asked to participate in the surveys and dockside interviews described above.
Additional ways to participate
FWC biologists may also ride along with paying passengers on for-hire fishing vessels, such as charter boats and headboats. If you are a patron on a for-hire fishing vessel, an FWC biologist may ask to collect data from your fish as they are caught and either harvested or released. This information is important for assessing the health of fish stocks. Some of your released fish may be marked with special tags, which might be caught again by another recreational angler. If you catch a tagged fish, treat the fish as you normally would – release or harvest it based on existing regulations, and then call FWC’s Tag Hotline at 800-367-4461 or email TagReturn@MyFWC.com to provide information.
As you see, there are multiple avenues to help provide data about your recreational fishing trips. Florida’s recreational fishery is among the largest in the country, and precise and reliable data is critical to successful management of Florida’s fisheries. These data collection programs would not be a success without the support from recreational anglers like yourself.
Have a question about marine fisheries regulations, improving recreational data or catch-and-release? We are here for you. Send your questions, photos and fishing tales to Saltwater@MyFWC.com. Make sure your photo meets our photo requirements by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine and clicking on “Submit a Photograph.” Learn how to submit your catches and get rewarded through our Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs at CatchaFloridaMemory.com.
The quarterly Gone Coastal column is one of many ways the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations, and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. We are available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and we would love the opportunity to share information through in-person presentations with recreational or commercial fishing organizations. To contact the FWC’s Regulatory Outreach subsection, call 850-487-0554 or email Saltwater@MyFWC.com.