Monthly Archives: December 2018

Saying Goodby To President George HW Bush

SAYING GOODBYE To President George HW Bush
Today’s feature comes to us from The Outdoor Wire, our parent publication and her publisher/editor
Jim Shepherd from The Fishing Wire

President Bush


George H.W. Bush
Later this morning, the nation will say goodbye to former President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush. With his death, we lose another member of what has been referred to as our “greatest generation” those World War II veterans who not only fought a global war, they came home and built what has arguably been one of the greatest nations in history.

With Mr. Bush’s passing, we also lose an advocate for the vigorous life of an outdoorsman. Bush, even in his later years, loved the outdoors, and many of the tributes paid to him over the past few days include recollections of trips with him to hunt or fish. Earlier this year, when fly fishing legend Bernard “Lefty” Kreh’s estate offered many of his mementoes at auction, one of the items included a handwritten note from Bush, thanking Kreh for a “great time fishing” with Mr. Bush. It also admonished Kreh not to “laugh at the picture of this amateur flyfisherman.”

The note and its admonition demonstrated two of Mr. Bush’s best qualities: valuing the worth of others, and a healthy ability to laugh at himself. After all, he used to recall that his mother had raised him not to have “big I” problems- to value others more than himself.

That servant’s nature was demonstrated by a life of service and focus on others, from being nation’s youngest naval aviator in World War II to penning a heartfelt note to an incoming President Bill Clinton who had defeated him – handily- in the elections. To Clinton, Mr. Bush wrote “I’m pulling for you” -and pledged his full support. It’s no surprise the two later became close friends. As Clinton explained, “He befriended me,” going on to say that he considered their friendship “one of the great joys of my life.”

Even as President, Bush worried about others. In fact, during a broadcast discussing the Bush legacy, my former colleague Bernard Shaw, recounted how Mr. Bush was concerned for his safety during Shaw’s life reporting from Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. After his return home, Bush invited Shaw to the White House, where Mr. Bush told him “Bernie, we were really worried about you.”

Bush’s handling of that war was widely criticized at the time. Today, his handling of that conflict and the collapse of the Soviet Union have led some historians to say he will likely be considered the nation’s finest one-term president.

Hs passing saddens many of us old enough to remember a younger, more vibrant Vice President Bush and his boss, Ronald Reagan. Being pretty new to the national news media at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the unprecedented cooperation between political opponents.

Today, we lose one of those vital links to a scarce commodity between politicians: civil discourse and a desire to achieve the greater good.

As an industry, we should mourn the passage of our forty-first president because he, like the rest of his generation, realized the connections between man and nature. He was an outdoorsman and understood the circle of life.

Mr. Bush lived through adversity, from World War II to the tragic loss of a child, but accepted it all without bitterness as a part of the process of living life to one’s potential. He kept going without losing his belief in man’s ability – and responsibility – to do good.

On Monday, during a rare display of unity as political leaders came together to pay their respects to Mr. Bush, crowds gathered outside the capital rotunda where his casket will lie in state until this morning’s services. There, a 62-year old man who described himself as a lifelong Democrat explained standing outside in the cold as a way to pay his respects to a man “who gave his life in the service to the country,who did a lot of good things, but was a humble, caring person.”

A lady from Vermont said she was there because Mr. Bush represented an era where people “did the right thing and you care about America and that comes first.”

“I think maybe people need to start thinking about that a bit more,” she told CNN, “following that set of values, not fighting with each other, agreeing to disagree, doing what we’re supposed to do, take care of each other…not be at odds with each other all the time.

“Our country needs to come together,” she said, Regardless of what your political views are, I think everybody at heart wants to our country do well.”

This morning, as the nation prepares its final goodbyes to George H.W. Bush, I believe her outlook would have Mr. Bush’s wholehearted support.

— Jim Shepherd

Deer Are Laughing At Me

The deer are laughing at me. I have not been able to hunt this year, but Monday morning while sitting at my kitchen table I saw movement in the back yard. A big, fat doe, the kind I like to shoot, causally wandered across the edge of the woods, offering an easy shot. I’m sure I heard giggling.

Years ago, when we first moved to this house, I had another bad season. I had not killed a deer that year but had high hopes as the last week of season, and doe days, approached. But I got the flu a few days before they opened.

I was lying on the couch in my pajamas, feeling miserable. Then I looked out the back door and saw two does easing along the edge of the woods, just like the one Monday. I got my 30-30, eased open the door and shot one.

My plan was to shoot both but Linda’s screams from the kitchen spooked me, and the deer. It took off. I did not think to warn her and a 30-30 fired partially inside is kinda loud.

Back then there were fewer houses around here. They were so sparse I could zero my gun in my back yard. If I shoot one now, I will have to be extremely careful which way I shoot.

It was a good thing I didn’t kill two that morning. By the time I got dressed, cleaned the deer and got it into the truck I could hardly get in to drive to the processor. Two would have been one too many!

Can I Go Walleye Fishing In Georgia?

Walleye Fishing in Georgia
Georgia DNR

Georgia State Record Walleye


Wes Carlton with his state record 14 lb., 2 oz. walleye from Lake Rabun
Walleye is the most popular sport fish in the northern states and Canada, but it remains a relatively obscure species to most Georgia anglers. With expanding populations and an excellent reputation as table fare, walleyes are gaining the attention of increasing numbers of Georgia anglers. Walleye is a coolwater fish that is native to the Tennessee River and Coosa River Valley systems that flow through the heart of Fannin, Union, and Towns counties in northeast Georgia and in Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties in northwest Georgia. Rivers with Native American names like the Coosawattee, Conasauga, Etowah, Oostanaula, Toccoa, Nottely, and Hiwasee once contained native walleye populations.

Native walleye declined in the state many years ago for a variety of reasons including loss of spawning habitat and overfishing. To rebuild and expand their distribution across North Georgia, a walleye stocking program was initiated in the 1960s. These early stockings were largely unsuccessful in all but a few mountain lakes; therefore, the walleye stocking program ceased in 1968.

During the 1990s, declining numbers of walleye coupled with the rapid expansion of illegally introduced blueback herring sparked a renewed interest in reestablishing the walleye stocking program. In 2002, a fledgling walleye stocking program was reborn in Georgia. Today, eleven lakes receive annual stockings of walleye. These include lakes Seed, Rabun, Tugalo, Yonah and Hartwell in the Savannah River drainage, lakes Chatuge and Blue Ridge in the Tennessee Valley plus Lake Lanier, Carters Lake, and two lakes in the Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area.

This guide was written to provide anglers with seasonal information on where, when and how to catch walleye in Georgia. GADNR staff is also available to answer more specific questions. Contact information for walleye lakes in Georgia is provided in the table below.

Lakes Burton, Seed, Rabun, Tugalo, Yonah, Hartwell, Chatuge and Lanier

706/947-1507, 706/947-1502 770/535-5498

Blue Ridge Lake, Carters Lake, and Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area

706/295-6102

Late-Winter / Early-Spring Fishing Tips

By late-winter, the natural instincts of adult walleyes draw the population to the spawning grounds for the annual ritual of laying and fertilizing eggs. Identifying potential spawning areas is critical to angling success from February to April. For most lakes in Georgia, the major walleye spawning areas are in the headwaters in very shallow water with rocky bottoms, like the picture below of a major spawning area in the headwaters of Lake Rabun. Pre-spawn walleye stage in deeper water near the spawning grounds for several weeks while they wait for the water to reach the critical temperature of 48oF to 50oF. No fancy gear or tackle are needed to catch these fish. Simply drifting nightcrawlers slowly along the bottom through these staging areas is the best way to catch prespawn walleye. Walleye are finicky feeders and may prefer small jigs tipped with minnows or a curly tailed grub or even a crankbait, such as a sinking Rapala or Shad Rap. Maintain a slow but steady retrieve as you work these lures across the river bottom. Be patient and stay focused for a light tap or steady tug on the line.

Male walleyes will be the first to reach the spawning grounds in late-February, and they will remain in the area through mid-April. At night, male walleyes will swim into very shallow water with rocky bottoms in hopes of finding a female ready to spawn. During the day, they will retreat to the shelter of nearby deeper water to avoid the bright sunshine. Female walleyes behave much differently than their male counterparts. Females will only move in and out of the spawning grounds for brief periods at night to broadcast their eggs onto the rocky bottoms where they will be fertilized by several males. When her heavy egg sac is emptied, she will leave the spawning grounds for the season. Because of the differences in spawning behavior between male and female walleyes, anglers can expect the bulk of their catch to be males that range in size from 2 to 4 lb. GADNR has been stocking walleye into north Georgia lakes since 2001. This is sufficient time to allow many females to reach trophy size. In fact, GADNR biologists have collected walleye over 12 pounds during the spawning season on some lakes. The state record was caught in February 2016 and weighed 14 lb 2 oz.

From March through early-April, walleyes are easiest to catch in the evening hours when they venture into the shallows of the spawning grounds. In fact, some anglers talk about the “golden hour” right before nightfall as the time when walleyes bite best. Shallow water walleyes are most easily caught using a 3/8 oz jig tipped with a live minnow, nightcrawler, or plastic grub. Shallow running minnow imitations are also effective during the nightly spawning run. Whatever your preference of baits or lures, the presentation is similar. Cast across the rocky structure and make a slow but steady retrieve. The bite is rarely aggressive but feels more like sudden resistance. A slight upward swing of the rod is all that is needed to set the hook. Walleyes in shallow water are easily spooked, so finesse and stealth are critical, even at night. The rocky, shoal areas below the dams at lakes Burton, Seed, Tugalo, and Yonah offer easy bank access for nighttime anglers. Boats are required to reach spawning fish on lakes Tugalo, Hartwell, Lanier, Carters, and Blue Ridge. Use caution when fishing below dams because water levels may rise suddenly. Check water release schedules before your trip.

Late-Spring / Summer Fishing Tips

After the spawning season, walleye return to the main lake to resume their daily ritual of finding food and searching for sheltered resting areas. Because walleye prefer cool water temperatures (65 to 72oF), small schools of walleye will congregate together in deeper water during the summer months where temperatures are more suitable. Walleye orient to structure, especially bottom structure, in their preferred depth zone, only leaving these hiding spots for opportune moments to feed on herring, shad, yellow perch, sunfish, and crayfish. The key to successful walleye fishing in the summer is to determine areas of the lake where walleyes are most likely to congregate. In the mountain lakes, likely congregation areas occur on points and the mouth of coves at target depths that range from 15 to 25-feet in early summer and progressively increase to 30 to 50-feet by summer’s end. During the summer, most walleye can be found on the lower half the lake.

The best presentation for walleye in the late-spring and summer months is a simple nightcrawler that is worked slowly along the bottom near structure. Slow trolling can also be effective under lowlight and nighttime conditions using a weighted bottom bouncer armed with an in-line spinner and tipped with a nightcrawler or lively blueback herring or even deep diving crankbaits in perch, fire tiger and shad color patterns. Long points, humps, and weed beds on the lower end of the lake are the best places to search for summertime walleyes. Structure fishing with finesse and diligence will ultimately be the keys to hooking into some walleyes during the warmer months.

Several reservoirs in north Georgia are summer standouts because of their relatively small size and ease of locating deepwater fish. Lakes with excellent summer walleye fishing include Lake Yonah, Lake Tugalo, and Lake Rabun. The search for summer walleye should begin on the lower one-third of the reservoir in the mouth of coves, on long points, or around any deepwater structure. There is one unusual twist to the traditional summertime, deepwater pattern on these lakes. After heavy rain events, walleyes will frequently move into the shallow headwaters to feed in the fast-flowing, turbid waters. These opportunities are unpredictable but worth taking advantage of when they occur because the walleyes that move into the shallows are generally big and hungry!


Fall Fishing Tips

When the tree leaves turn colors during the cool days of October, walleyes emerge from their deepwater refuge to search the shallows for unsuspecting prey. During the fall, walleye actively feed during low light conditions and throughout the night. The moon phase can also influence walleye fishing success, with the best night time fishing occurring under a full moon. Once again, search the points and adjacent flats on the lower one-third of the reservoir at dawn, dusk or at night for shallow water feeding activity.

Cool weather walleye feed on a wide variety of prey items, including blueback herring, shad, yellow perch, bluegill, minnows, and crayfish. During the fall months, walleye will typically bunch up around downed trees and other structures in 20 to 40-feet of water, especially in the outer bends of the river channel. Anglers should nibble around the edges of these structures with a small jig that is tipped with a minnow or nightcrawler. Trolling with live herring or deep-diving crankbaits is a secondary option at this time of year.

Winter Fishing Tips

From December through February, water temperatures on most north Georgia lakes dip into the mid to low 40s. Cold winter temperatures reduce a fish’s desire to feed. For those brave enough to endure the cold, live baits presented around bottom structure at depths from 30 to 60-feet, especially near the dam, can produce a few strikes. Although winter walleye may be bunched up, they are largely inactive. Patiently dangling a live herring or medium shiner or even a jigging spoon in front of their nose may be sufficient temptation to draw a strike. If one fish is caught or located, you can be sure that others are nearby. The key to successful winter fishing is to work your baits slowly around every nook and cranny of bottom structures.

In late winter, warm rains can concentrate walleye in tributary areas of the lake. Tributary runoff is often a few degrees warmer than the main lake and sometimes more turbid in color. These conditions are favorable to the baitfish that walleye prey upon. Follow the warming water to the bait and you will find the predators, including walleye.

There Are Good People Out There

Last year Jack Ridgeway introduced me to Randy and Wyatt Robinson. Wyatt was a student at Crosspoint Christian Academy and on the fishing team there. I tried to help them get ready for a high school tournament at Allatoona.

I’m not sure how much I helped, but the last two years they have helped me a lot! I have met some great folks through fishing and they are two of the best. Sometimes I feel like our society has destroyed good people. If you watch much news, it surely seems that way.

But there are many good folks out there, more than you realize from all the publicity the bad ones get. Randy is dedicated to working with Wyatt, doing everything a good parent does to help his dreams. As his boat captain, Randy spends many hours in a boat, driving the boat but the rest of the time just watching them fish.

He also provides a great environment for a youngster growing up. Wyatt hunts and recently killed a nice buck. I’m not sure he realizes how lucky he is to grow up in a home like that, much like I did not realize how lucky I was as a kid until I moved away from home. I just wish every kid could be as lucky!

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report

Check out these weekly updated reports for selected lakes in Georgia and Alabama Lakes Fishing Report. If any guides or fishermen do weekly reports and would like them published on my site please contact me: ronnie@fishing-about.com

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Fishing Report 12/8/18

As has been the case I am still in-between boats waiting on my 2019 Ranger, so my report is
second hand. It appears this past week was consistent as the weather seemed to maintain a
daily typical winter type conditions all week with the only challenge being some wind during
a few of the days. This allowed for the fishing to be pretty good all week certainly as is always
the case in winter fishing location was everything but if you found them you had some fun.

Fishing was mainly in 16 to 20 ft. of water off long points with scattered grass or structure in
the area. If your confident in heavy baits the Picasso Umbrella rig is catching fish. The good
news is the SPRO rattle bait bite (Aruka Shad) was strong, as they were eating it pretty good
when you found some active fish. There is also a SPRO McRip jerk bait bite on the edges of
the channel over grass, the rocking affect of this bait is always a fish catcher in the winter.

Come fish with me no will treat you better or wok harder to see you have a great day on the
water. We are booking for 2019 we have days and guides available to fish with you. Looking
for a great holiday gift we sell 4 hr. gift certificates that make excellent Christmas gifts for
your avid fishermen. We fish with great sponsor products, Ranger Boats, Duckett fishing,
Lowrance Electronics, Vicious Fishing, Boat Logix mounts and more.

Email: bassguide@comcast.net
Phone: 256 759 2270
Captain Mike Gerry

November Bartletts Ferry Tournament

On Sunday, November 25 nine members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our November tournament at Bartletts Ferry. After eight hours of casting we brought 27 keeper bass to the scales weighing about 32 pounds. There were two limits and one zero.

Jay Gerson won it all with five weighing 9.22 pounds and his 4.09 pound largemouth was big fish. Wayne Teal had four weighing 6.84 pounds for second, my three at 5.60 pounds was third and Billy Roberts had five weighing 4.60 pounds for fourth.

Driving to the lake the fog was so thick it was a slow trip. I thought I would have to change my plans of running about five miles to start on a point I like where I caught fish in September, but when we got to the lake there was little fog on the water, a surprise.

I should have changed my plans anyway since I did not get a bite for almost two hours. At 8:45 I landed a 3.12 pound largemouth on a shaky head so that fired me up, but I didn’t get another bite for two more hours, then lost a solid keeper that jumped and threw my jig head worm.

About ten minutes later I hooked and landed another good keeper largemouth, making me feel a little better. But two hours later I had not gotten another bite until a keeper spot hit my worm. That was it, I got no more bites before having to go in. I was surprised to place in the tournament with just three fish, but everybody had a tough day.

I was happy to see 14 of the 27 bass were largemouth. And three of them weighed more than three pounds. Back in the 1970s and 80s we caught a lot of good largemouth there, many in the five to six-pound range. Then spotted bass invaded the lake and for years we had a hard time catching largemouth.

Spots are not native to middle Georgia lakes and when they get in one they are so aggressive they tend to crowd out the largemouth. That has happened on Jackson, West Point and Bartletts Ferry.

Hopefully the spots are getting reduced and the largemouth are coming back some. One reason Bartletts Ferry has changed is the hydrilla there. That underwater weed offers largemouth great habitat but not so much for spots.

The Chattahoochee River feeding Bartletts Ferry has had a lot of hydrilla in it for several years and it had spread to the lower lake. Last year there were thick beds of it, helping the largemouth. Unfortunately, the Alabama DNR sprayed and killed most of it on the lower lake. I wish they would leave it alone.

Integrating Red Snapper Data

NOAA Fisheries, Gulf States Prioritize Integrating Red Snapper Data

At a recent workshop, Marine Recreational Information Program partners discussed how data collected by general and specialized recreational fishing surveys can help deliver more timely and precise catch estimates for Gulf red snapper.
From The Fishing Wire

Red snapper grow big


Photo courtesy of FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) partnership took another step toward delivering more timely and precise estimates of Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper catch and effort. At a September workshop co-hosted by MRIP and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, scientists and managers from state agencies, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries, and independent statistical consultants sought to identify the best way to use data collected by specialized and general state-federal surveys to monitor recreational catches of Gulf red snapper, as needed to support stock assessments and fishery management.

The Red Snapper Survey Designs Workshop IV was the latest in a series, dating back to 2014, focused on finding ways to better monitor catches during short federal and state fishing seasons for one of the Gulf’s most popular fish. NOAA Fisheries and its Gulf state and regional partners have spent the past several years working closely to develop survey designs that address federal and state management needs for more timely and statistically precise catch statistics.

Since last December, NOAA Fisheries has certified designs for three surveys in the Gulf of Mexico: Louisiana’s all species, general survey, LA Creel; Mississippi’s red snapper-specific Tails n’ Scales; and Alabama’s red snapper-specific Snapper Check. Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey, which supplements MRIP’s general surveys for a limited group of reef fish species, is expected to be certified later this year. Each survey uses a different methodology to gather data and produce estimates based on the unique characteristics of the state’s fishery.

“This is all part of a comprehensive, collaborative, and rigorous process to ensure sound and effective science and management of Gulf red snapper,” said Gregg Bray, GulfFIN program coordinator for the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. “It’s so important to have the leadership and local knowledge of the states, the collaborative strength of GulfFIN, and the financial and technical resources of NOAA Fisheries. That’s the real value of the MRIP partnership.”

The MRIP state surveys are designed to improve regional monitoring of the recreational red snapper catch and effort. Estimates from these surveys can be used for federal scientific stock assessments and fishery management once there is a transition plan that describes how to integrate state and general data, and how to calibrate new and historical catch and effort estimates.

During the workshop, participants were introduced to several options for integrating data collected by the specialized and general MRIP surveys and for calibrating estimates generated by the new integrated survey approaches against estimates based only on the general surveys. Calibrations will be needed to ensure that red snapper catch estimates produced by different survey designs can be converted into a common currency for use in stock assessments and management.

As a next step, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission will coordinate the delivery of survey data and estimates to a team of independent statistical consultants who will explore the integration and calibration methodologies put forward at the workshop. The need for a follow-up workshop to present and discuss the results of the analysis is under consideration for early 2019. A workshop summary is being prepared and consultants are expected to provide a report following the completion of their analysis.

Read more like this at NOAA Fisheries here:

Thanksgiving, Weather and Climate Change?

Thanksgiving came really early this year. A results of climate change, no doubt.

On a more serious weather note, we had our first freezing weather this past Tuesday, November 25. That is a little later than the average, since the historical average is on November 11. But the first freeze here on record was October 14, 1988. The latest was December 26, 1918. We were well within that range.

Weather and climate change. Weather changes day to day to day and even hour to hour, but climate change is a long-term trend over many years. No doubt it is changing, but how much is man made is open to debate unless you have an agenda and insist the science is “settled.” Real science is open to adjustments based on new information, and almost all science has changed over the years.

The day after Thanksgiving the National Climate Assessment (NCA) was released. This gloom and doom report, based on their computer models, came from government agencies with agendas. Their recommendations were that everyone sacrifice our lifestyles to avoid perceived catastrophes.

Some problems with this report include:

1. The report claims climate change will cost the US economy 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2100. But that projection is based on our climate being 15 degrees warmer by then.

That is a guess way beyond even the UN’s guesses from the International Panel on Climate Change. That group guesses the change at that time will be less than one-fifth, or just under three degrees, of that.

2. The NCA predicts more hurricanes, floods and wildfires. But last year, in the annual report for that year, it shows no increase in any of those. This has been a bad year for all three, they claim, but one major hurricane does not make a trend, and a state mis-managing their forest to protect endanger species, leading to worse wildfire dangers, does not equal climate change.

The NCA also uses timelines for their projections with arbitrary starting and ending dates, cutting off their information to show trends longer term timelines do now support.

3. The NCA report would lead to the IPCC recommendation of a huge carbon tax by 2030. That would increase your electric bill so much you could not afford to run air conditioners, heaters or most electric appliances. And your gas would cost would go us so much you could not afford to drive.

I will pay attention to the doomsayers when they lead by example. As soon as they walk or ride horses everywhere they go and stop all use of electricity produced by fossil fuels, including that used to charge their electric cars, I may pay a little more attention to them.

Last Thursday it was 27 degrees at daylight but 60 by 3:00 PM, a change of 33 degrees. But I didn’t see dead animals everywhere from that drastic change. The lake water at Lake Martin dropped five degrees last Tuesday in the six hours I fished, but dead fish didn’t float to the surface.

Like wildlife, we adapt to daily changes much more drastic than the projections from government agencies wanting to spend our money and make us change our lifestyles while not changing their own.

Goliath Grouper Study

Florida FWC Uses Telemetry in Goliath Grouper Study
from The Fishing Wire

Goliath Groupers grow big!


Photo Credit Florida International University
Acoustic telemetry is used to measure impacts of catch-and-release fishing on Goliath grouper and to determine behavior patterns of this federally protected species.

Goliath grouper (Serranidae: Epinephelus itajara) occur in tropical and subtropical waters from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of Florida, south to Brazil, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. One of the world’s largest groupers, this species can grow to over 7 feet long, exceed 750 pounds, and live at least 37 years. Goliath grouper grow slowly, mature relatively late (4-6 years old), and aggregate to spawn.

Harvest of goliath grouper was prohibited in U.S. waters in 1990 after a noted decline in population numbers. In 1994, they were listed as critically endangered on the IUCN World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species (www.iucnredlist.org). Goliath grouper are currently protected from harvest in U.S. waters though there are fisheries for goliath grouper in some countries. The status of the species throughout its entire geographic range is unclear and there are many factors that increase goliath’s susceptibility to overfishing. For more information regarding goliath grouper biology and regulations, please visit the Goliath Grouper Web section.

Protection from harvest does not ensure that fishing mortality is negligible. Recreational fishing charters throughout Florida advertise goliath grouper as a prime target species for catch-and-release fishing. A fish of this size produces a challenging and exciting fight on rod and reel. Goliath grouper are also often caught unintentionally during angling efforts for other reef species. While their primary diet consists of slow moving, bottom-dwelling species, they are opportunistic predators that occasionally feed upon a struggling fish being reeled in by anglers.

To date, the effects of catch-and-release angling on goliath grouper have not been established. As with many reef fish, angling at deeper depths may result in gas expansion and extensive boat-side handling that can cause injury or mortality. Additionally, goliath grouper often remain at the same sites for extended periods, so repeated capture events may affect their survival at heavily fished sites.

Goals

The primary goals of the goliath grouper telemetry program are twofold:

To describe the effects of catch-and-release angling on the survival of goliath grouper across a range of depths.
To quantify the long-term behavioral patterns and residence times of goliath grouper within the study area.
Acoustic telemetry and conventional tagging will be used to assess both immediate and long-term effects of catch-and-release angling and to provide data regarding residency and behavior of this protected species. Goliath grouper are known to remain in the same area for extended periods, and they have a tendency to aggregate around habitat such as shipwrecks. The monitored shipwrecks in this study (Figure 1) have been chosen based on ongoing research that indicates consistent goliath grouper presence. Quantitatively assessing the effects of catch-and-release angling for goliath grouper, in addition to continued investigation into population dynamics, movement patterns, and stock structure, will provide valuable information for future management or regulation.

Methods

Goliath grouper are caught using typical recreational fishing gear. Once at the surface, goliath grouper are left in the water and positioned at the side of the boat so that they can be measured, photographed, and fitted with tags. Two external tags are inserted just beneath the dorsal fin. The first is a conventional ID tag (Figure 2), and the second is an acoustic transmitter, or “pinger” (Figure 3). Each pinger has its own unique code that will allow for the identification of individual fish. Goliath grouper are tracked manually immediately after release, which provides information regarding short-term survival and behavior after a catch-and-release event.

Two to four acoustic receivers (hydrophones) are permanently deployed at each monitored shipwreck. Each receiver has a listening area of approximately 500,000 square meters, or 124 acres. Whenever a tagged fish swims within listening range (Figure 4), a hydrophone will record the fish’s individual ID as well as the time, date, and depth of the fish within the water column. These data will yield information regarding long-term movements and behavioral patterns of goliath grouper at the study sites.

Conventional external ID tags are attached to each goliath grouper to provide recapture/resighting data through diver surveys and angler recapture reports. Any tagged fish that are observed should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Angler Tag Return Hotline, 800-367-4461. Researchers need to know the date and location of the sighting and the relative condition of the fish.

Movement and behavioral data will indicate the effects of catch-and-release fishing on this reef species. Minimum estimates of survival immediately after a catch-and-release event can be assessed. Long-term acoustic telemetry data will allow for estimates of residence time for individuals at specific sites. Continued underwater surveys will provide further information regarding abundance, size distribution, and seasonal patterns for goliath grouper within the study area. It is the goal of this project to synthesize these data for a better understanding of goliath grouper biology and ecology that can support the development of responsible and effective management.

To learn more about our telemetry studies, visit the Acoustic Telemetry Research section.