“Fishing is like Christmas morning,” says Warren Hupman, owner of Fish Master Charters and Captain of The Fishing Luhr in St. Mary's, Georgia. “Until that fish breaks the water, you never know what could be at the end of that line.” For many recreational fishermen, going out on the water is more about the experience than it is bringing home dinner. Making sure there are plenty of fish to catch—and re-catch—is just common sense. However, over time fishing stocks have been depleted and that affects recreational anglers and the sport they love.
Recreational Anglers Can Help Because They Know Fishing
TNC partners with recreational anglers to support healthy and sustainable fish populations. When these healthy fish stocks are overfished—depleted beyond the ability of the species to reproduce and rebound from pressure—an imbalance is created across the entire ecosystem. Each fish has an important role to play in the food web, and loss of populations, particular species and biodiversity, can cause a domino effect with negative impacts across a marine community.
The fishing community knows both the waters and the fish, and they’ve seen changes in fish populations firsthand over the years. Catching fish and releasing those that aren’t kept, in a way that supports the fish’s survival, allows it to go on to reproduce and replenish the population. Recreational anglers can have a great impact on conservation and the future of the fishery through sustainable fishing practices.
TNC's #DeckToDepth program encourages anglers to get fish from the boat deck down to depth as quickly as possible using a descending device. This will significantly increase the fish's chances for survival and help ensure abundant fish stocks for future generations.
The Fish Guyz Partnership
We’re partnering with Discovery Channel’s The Fish Guyz TV series to help carry this important conservation message to the recreational fishing community. TNC Florida fisheries manager David Moss and field program director Chris Bergh are featured in two episodes during Season 6. They discuss with The Fish Guyz the importance of sustainable fishing practices and what the recreational fishing community can do to help ensure abundant fisheries for future generations.
See The Fish Guyz
Here are the Discovery Channel episodes that feature TNC staff and sustainable fishing practices. All episodes air on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. ET and PT. The episodes are also available for streaming on The Fish Guyz webpage, Discovery, Carbon TV and Pluto TV.
- April 8, 2023 - The Guyz head offshore from Marathon in the Florida Keys and use a descending device to help protect the future of grouper fishing.
- April 22, 2023 - Just in time for Earth Day, the Fish Guyz hop on the 44-foot Contender with TNC Florida fisheries manager David Moss for a trip out to the Gulf of Mexico.
- April 29, 2023 - The Fish Guyz visit with TNC field program director Chris Bergh to learn about sea level rise in the Florida Keys, an important area for many recreationally valuable fish species.
Explore the full listing of Fish Guyz episodes.
Releasing Fish to Survive Another Day
One of the major issues affecting fish populations is barotrauma, or injuries caused by a rapid change in pressure. When a fish is pulled up from deep water, the compressed gas in its body expands. If the fish doesn’t die from these injuries after being released, the extra gas in its body will cause it to float like a cork, making it vulnerable to predators and unable to swim down to a safe depth. In some species, mortality rates can be as high as 70%.
Fish descending devices offer a way to help prevent barotrauma by quickly pulling the fish back down to the proper depth and releasing it. Descending devices significantly reduce discard mortality rates. Even if a fish has visible injuries from barotrauma, those injuries can be reversed, and the fish can safely swim away if it’s handled properly and returned to the ocean quickly. These devices are safer for the fish and the angler than venting the fish by puncturing its swim bladder, a common practice to reduce mortality. Used correctly, descending devices can help fish survive, reproduce and help grow a healthy population for future generations of anglers to enjoy.
Recreational anglers are an important partner for TNC as we work together to address the problem of overfishing. Every fish that’s safely released is a fish that can be caught another day. These fish will reproduce to help replenish fish stocks, and make a difference for the future of recreational fishing and the health of our oceans.
Together, We Find a Way
The only way to succeed in this endeavor is for the entire recreational fishing community to work together toward a common goal. By educating others, using descending devices and helping to collect data, we can decrease mortality rates, help fishing stocks, ensuring there’s enough fish to maintain a healthy ecosystem and support a robust recreational fishing industry for years to come.
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