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Tarpon Hook-and-Release Study
Biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Marine Research Institute are in the second season of the Tarpon Hook-and-Release Study in Boca Grande Pass.


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Biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Marine Research Institute are in the second season of the Tarpon Hook and Release Study in Boca Grande Pass. This study was designed to evaluate the impact of hook-and-release fishing on survival of one of Florida’s top game fish species: tarpon, Megalops atlanticus. Field sampling is scheduled to start in late April and continue through the first week of July 2003. Data collection will focus on the two major tarpon fishing methods used in Boca Grande Pass: live-bait and jig fishing. Fishing guides that traditionally fish for tarpon with one of these methods will be asked to participate in the study.

Once a tarpon has been hooked and brought to the guide’s boat, FWC researchers will tag the fish with an ultrasonic transmitter. The tarpon will immediately be released and tracked for 4 to 6 hours to determine if the fish recovers or dies as a result of being hooked and released. Researchers will also record any deaths attributed to shark predation. By the end of this season, biologists expect to have 30 tarpon tagged and tracked–15 for each fishing method. Other important information, such as fighting time (in minutes), hook position (e.g., hooked in the mouth, gills, internal organs, or elsewhere on the body), and general health before release, will also be recorded.

Another tarpon hook-and-release study conducted in Boca Grande Pass 10 years ago found that tarpon are relatively hardy and have a high probability of surviving after being hooked and released. However, the increase in numbers of anglers who target tarpon combined with the increase in numbers of large sharks at the pass over the last 10 years warrant a reevaluation of the issue.
 
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