Florida anglers can improve harvest data from their phones: Guestview

 Kellie Ralston

Kellie Ralston

Kellie Ralston, Guest Columnist, Pensacola News Journal

Florida anglers can improve harvest data from their phones

Anglers along Florida’s Gulf coast have been heading offshore over the past week to enjoy the start of Florida’s 40-day red snapper season, serving as a reminder of how important recreational fishing is to the state’s economy and heritage. While recreational fishermen as a group often have a wide range of opinions — such as what bait is best to use, what areas produce the best bites, or how big that fish really was — one area they’ve agreed upon is that the data federal fisheries managers have been using to regulate fishing is pretty lousy.

Fortunately, innovative new data collection approaches are being implemented this year that will allow anglers the opportunity to report their catch and help improve the data managers need to sustainably manage these fisheries. In other words, for anglers who have rightfully complained in the past about poor fisheries data, it’s put up or shut up time.

As the season begins, Florida’s more than three million licensed anglers have the opportunity to play a critical role in improving recreational harvest data by registering for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, which is required for those targeting reef fish species, and by voluntarily recording their red snapper catches and trips on the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper smartphone app.

Data collected through the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper app, developed in partnership by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Snook and Gamefish Foundation (SGF), will help fish and wildlife officials make more informed decisions as they manage this Florida fishery. Anglers fishing in Gulf waters can use the free app to track trips, log their catches, and the condition of the fish when and if it was released. Florida anglers can also monitor the locations they made their catches, the time of day and the type of fish they caught, along with photos.

The app not only provides anglers with fishing regulations across the country, a 48-hour weather forecast, and a 4-day tide report right at their fingertips, it’s also a helpful tool for the state to manage fishing data, as well as providing a platform for anglers to revisit their past trips and discover patterns from good and not so good fishing days.

For anglers on Florida’s east coast, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) also partnered with the SGF to create MyFishCount.

MyFishCount started in 2017 as a free web-based tool for anglers to report their trips and catches. After gathering requests from anglers across the South Atlantic region, SAFMC unveiled the new free mobile smartphone app this month to improve science-based data used to manage South Atlantic fisheries.

Similar to the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper app, MyFishCount allows anglers fishing in the South Atlantic to log their catches along with other details about their fishing trip. Unlike the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper app however, MyFishCount can be used beyond the red snapper season to track catches of all species and trips throughout the entire year.

Improving the data used to make fisheries management decisions is an important goal of proposed federal legislation like the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act, also known as the Modern Fish Act (S. 1520 /H.R. 2023). The Modern Fish Act will improve the sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries and update federal regulations to better address recreational activities, which are very different from commercial fisheries.

Florida anglers support more than 128,000 jobs, provide $9.6 billion in economic activity and contribute more than $53.3 million for fisheries conservation. In fact, Keep Florida Fishing’s mission is to ensure anglers have clean waters, abundant fisheries and access to both. We believe all anglers have a responsibility to live up to Florida’s ‘Fishing Capital of the World’ designation and there is no better opportunity than through apps like iAngler and MyFishCount to directly participate in improving data for state and federal changes.

For anglers in the Gulf, download the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper app here. For those fishing in the South Atlantic, download the MyFishCount app here.

Together we can Keep Florida Fishing for generations to come.

Kellie Ralston is the Florida Fisheries policy director with the American Sportfishing Association.

As the technology partner for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, Elemental Methods developed and hosts the “MyFishCount”, “iAngler Gulf Red Snapper”, and “iAngler Gulf Red Snapper - CHARTER” mobile applications, web portal, and databases.