When the red snapper season was cut short this year, one big factor for the cut was the lack of data on recreational fishing. Federal marine agencies found their data was showing a drop in the red snapper population, which they believed was due to over-fishing, but anglers know water temperature, salinity, and weather can all play a role in any fish population.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (M.D.M.R.) held an open forum with red snapper fishers earlier this year to try to come up with a better method of gathering data on how many red snappers are actually being caught. One possible solution: self-reporting how many fish an angler catches. News 25’s Outdoor Reporter, Barry Foster, is an advocate for this self-reporting program. He says a tagging program, promoted by the Gulf Coast Research Lab, can also help in gathering data about other fish populations.
Foster explains that when fishing for certain species, such as cobia, you can record information about the fish and insert a tag behind its dorsal fin. Foster says, “You will record the health, the size of the cobia, so when someone catches it, let’s say off the coast of North Carolina some time later, then you go back and you report that number. You will know how much that fish has grown, where it has traveled, and the length of time it has grown because you have recorded the length at the time you tag it and then when they catch it, they record the length, the size, everything, so you get such valuable information.”
Both tagging and self-reporting help the M.D.M.R., federal agencies, and research labs all gather more accurate information about fish populations in our gulf waters. Foster says you can pick up a tagging kit at the Gulf Coast Research Lab if you want to participate.