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Florida Fish Busters Bulletin

May 2014

Freshwater fishing excels due to team effort
By: Bob Wattendorf
This spring has proved exceptional for
freshwater anglers, but it is not just a matter of luck
or seasonal weather variances. Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists
regularly work with anglers, industry and other
scientists to provide optimum-sustained use.
Protecting and enhancing Floridas freshwater fish
species and aquatic habitats is part of the FWCs
mission and anglers help ensure success.
Funding for these efforts comes from a variety
of sources, including fishing license sales, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration and
sale of the Go-Fishing largemouth bass tag.
Biologists routinely conduct electrofishing studies in which electric current is used
to stun fish, which are then collected, identified, documented and released. Biologists
and trained staff also collect creel data by interviewing anglers to see what they are
catching and how much time it takes to catch various sport fish. This type information is
combined and compared with results from previous years and other water bodies.
Unfortunately, those random sampling techniques tend not to account for some of our
most valuable fish trophy largemouth bass.
Mark Detweiller shows off a
properly documented TrophyCatch
bass prior to releasing it back into
Lake Toho.
Filling that data gap is a major reason
for TrophyCatch, says Tom Champeau,
director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries
Management. TrophyCatch
(TrophyCatchFlorida.com) is an incentive-
based conservation program that rewards
anglers for releasing bass heavier than 8
pounds. In addition to the direct benefits of
promoting catch-and-release of these older female bass, so they can be enjoyed by
other anglers, the verified data that is provided
is used as a form of citizen science.
In March alone, 145 verified Lunker Club
bass (8-9.9 lbs.), 54 Trophy Club (10-12.9 lbs.)
and 3 Hall of Fame bass over 13 pounds were
verified with photos and released. This
information, combined with electrofishing, creel
and other scientific measurements, help
biologists determine the best way to manage
trophy bass fisheries.
For instance, FWC stocked 3.5 million freshwater fish last fiscal year, including
approximately 300,000 largemouth bass. Aquatic vegetation management plans kept
waterways open for multiple uses, while native aquatic plant and other habitat
enhancement strategies improved habitat for fish and other wildlife. Other FWC
Proper documentation of the weight is critical
for TrophyCatch, but length and girth data is
also valuable when the fish can still be safely
released alive.
All bass verified for TrophyCatch must me
live released.
programs included building and repairing boat ramps and courtesy docks, placing fish
attractors and fish feeders, constructing fishing piers and providing fishing clinics for
youth.
The result is that Florida provides some of the best freshwater fishing in the
country, or the world for that matter. Specific to freshwater fishing, the latest national
survey, in 2011, reported that Florida had 1.2 million anglers. They enjoyed 26 million
days fishing (No. 2 Texas had 23 million), spending almost a billion dollars and
generating an economic impact of $1.7 billion that supported more than 14,000 jobs.
Perhaps what is most important is that those 26 million days of fishing equate to
100 million hours of healthy outdoor recreation. In a time when reports of sedentary
lifestyles are leading to an obesity crisis among not only adults but also young children,
providing fun, inexpensive ways to get outside and be active is increasingly important.
Freshwater fishing is available 365 days a year, with no closed seasons. An
average angler fishes 17 times a year for about four hours per trip, so based on a
annual resident fishing license costing only $17 that works out to just a quarter per hour
of fishing fun and maybe some high quality, fresh fish dinners.
Fishing license sales are the primary
source of funding for the Division of
Freshwater Fisheries. A program known as
Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration
(a.k.a., SFR, Wallop-Breaux or Dingell-
J ohnson) was created, in 1950, as a user-
pays, public-benefits program to restore and
FWC uses Federal Aid in Sport Fish
Restoration funding to provide boating access
as well as fisheries conservation and research.

better manage America's declining fishery resources. Excise taxes on fishing
equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels, import duties, and interest are collected
and returned to the states to enhance recreational fishing and boating. These funds are
apportioned to states and territories based primarily on a formula that includes land area
and the number of paid license holders. As a result, each year Florida recovers about
$8 for each angler who buys a license.
Another great thing about SFR? It requires that all moneys spent
on fishing licenses in Florida go to FWC for conservation.
Consequently, you are guaranteed that not only will the $17 you spend
on an annual license go to conservation but approximately $8
additional dollars from SFR will be used to improve your fishing and
boating.
Although resident seniors over 65 years of age are exempt,
buying a license is still one of the simplest ways for them to contribute
to ensuring quality fishing for themselves and their grandchildren. Their purchase also
helps bring the taxes collected on their tackle purchases and motor boat fuel
expenditures back to Florida. Youth under 16 are also exempt, but a new license allows
them to buy a license at any age. It is valid until they turn 17, so they dont actually
spend any more money than if they waited until they were 16. Besides the sense of
pride in being a card-holding member of the fishing community, the fact they have a
license allows FWC to claim the extra $8 for SFR each year from when they buy the
license until they turn 17.
Federal Aid in
Sport Fish
Restoration is
widely viewed as
the best example
of a user-pays,
public-benefits
program.
The FWC understands these are your hard earned dollars. Consequently, we
make special efforts to get your opinions. Development of the Black Bass Management
Plan is one example where public meetings, surveys and indepth meetings with industry
leaders and anglers provided specific guidance for improving your fisheries. The
conversations and management plan led to creation of the TrophyCatch program and to
a reassessment of black bass regulations to develop the least-restrictive regulations
feasible to protect and enhance trophy bass fisheries and maintain healthy bass
populations statewide. This is an ongoing effort and the public is encouraged to
participate.
Florida is truly blessed with great fishing resources and a responsible
management approach. If you want to help, please be sure to respond to FWC surveys,
register for TrophyCatch, report fish tags, follow all fishing rules, ensure you have a
valid license, and report ongoing resource violations or impaired boaters to Wildlife Alert
(1-888-404-3922). When you buy your license (license.myfwc.com), you can also
choose to contribute to the Youth Hunting/Fishing Program campaign and help create
the next generation that cares.
Speaking about caring and fisheries
conservation a simple way to contribute
and brag about being a proud angler is to
buy the beautiful Go Fishing largemouth
bass specialty plate for your car and boat trailer. You can do it at the tag office when
you replace your license tag, or simply go online to MyFloridaSpecialtyPlate.com/Go-
Fishing.html. You can even buy gift certificates for them now for Mothers Day and
Fathers Day. The tags are a great present they will proudly display and remember for
years. The plate features a Florida bass, with a redear sunfish and bluegill swimming in
a bed of eelgrass. Buy yours today and help ensure the future of freshwater fishing in
Florida.


Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356).
Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to
Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select more news, or scr.bi/Fish-busters for more
Fish Busters Bulletins. To subscribe to FWC columns or to receive news releases, visit
myfwc.com/Contact.

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