Biologists are putting reward tags on fish to track harvesting

Travis Tuten and Eric Nagid, fisheries biologists with Florida Fish and Wildlife, leave the Earl P. Powers Park boat basin to catch black crappie and tag them with reward tags on Thursday. The tags are in increments of $5, $10, $20, $40, $80. They are trying to get data on harvest estimates, which will be used to find out how many fish are being caught by fisherman and how many are being removed in gizzard shad nets.

Doug Finger/staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 7:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 7:37 p.m.

The fishing at Newnan's Lake just got more interesting thanks to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission project that can earn local anglers cash as they help collect data on fishing trends.


For your information

What: Tagged black crappie at Newnan's Lake off Hawthorne Road

Reward: Amounts vary from $5 to $80 per fish. Return tags to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Information: Call Travis Tuten at 955-3220,ext. 113

Sponsored by the St. Johns River Water Management District, the program calls for tagging black crappie to determine the percentage harvested at Newnan's Lake, a popular east Gainesville fishing hole, said Allen Martin, a regional Florida Fish and Wildlife fishery biologist.

Tagging fish is a common way to gather that type of information, Martin said.

"These are all pieces of a puzzle we put together to gather information about fish," Martin said.

Black crappie, which are a silver yellow-green-colored fish with a dark-speckled back, are among the most commonly fished-for species statewide, along with largemouth bass and panfish, Martin said.

Fishery biologists tagged about 650 black crappie in a five-day period ending Thursday, said Travis Tuten, a fishery biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In total, about 1,700 black crappie at Newnan's Lake have been marked through the program, which is in its third year. This means that some fishermen may find black crappie that were tagged a year or two ago, Tuten said.

From the collected data, scientists try to determine such things as whether they should restrict fishing of a particular species.

Only 1.3 percent of black crappie at Newnan's Lake were harvested through recreational fishing in 2010, compared with 3.7 percent in 2009.

That shows a low potential for overfishing of black crappie, Tuten said. But the amount of fishing could climb in the future.

In the past, largemouth bass have also been tagged at Newnan's Lake.

Fishermen who catch the tagged black crappie will receive a reward when they turn in the tags to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Gainesville office, which is accepting the tags throughout the year.

Fish are marked with yellow plastic tags that have contact information as well as a specific reward amount: $5, $10, $20, $40 or $80, Tuten said.

He also said fishermen can either release or keep the fish that they catch. The fishing season typically peaks around February and March.

"A lot of times people see tags on a fish and think ‘Oh, I better release it,' " said Tuten, who has worked for about eight years at Newnan's Lake. "But we don't want to influence whether or not fishermen are harvesting fish."

The commission posted signs at Newnan's Lake boat ramps to let people know about the tagged fish. But Martin said the commission does not like to publicize the availability of the tagged fish too much because it may draw in more fishermen than normal and alter the actual data.

"We don't want to attract anglers just searching for rewards," he said.

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