Red Drum Fishery

Joe, Oscar, Jack, and William

Background

The Red Drum (Sciaenops Ocellatus) is also referred as “redfish”, “channel bass”, or the “spottail bass”.The Red Drum’s name originated from the “drumming” sounds it created during the spawning season.The body of the Red Drum consists of a long body with reddish-bronze color, and have series of spots at the base of the caudal fin. The Red Drum can be found along the Atlantic coast of the United States from Delaware to Florida. As Red Drums develop, they live in different habitats. Juvenile Red Drum are commonly found in shallow creeks that meander through cordgrass. Sub Adult Red Drum are more commonly found in larger creeks and rivers. During the warm months, as the incoming tide begins to reach the marsh grass, fish move into the grass. Here, they feed on fiddler crabs (80% of their diet), mud crabs, grass shrimp, and fishes that are associated with this structured habitat. They typically mate in August and when September ends. They prefer warmer water to develop and reproduce in. The larval swim to warmer waters and feed and grow and their early stages.

Cause for Decline

The cause of the decline of the Red Drum fish is largely due to commercial fishing. It is causing lots of overfishing. Sport fishing and tournaments are held already so the combination of both commercial and sport fishing are causing the decline in the population of the red drum.

Fishery Description

The fishery is very popular for both recreational and commercial use. Tackle selection includes spinning or bait-casting gear, 10 to 20 lb rating and a 1/0 to 4/0 hook. Shrimp, pinfish, small crabs, finger mullet, and cut baits are excellent for catching Redfish. They can be fished under a float or free-lined into currents past structures or grass flats where the fish are.There are several artificial lures that work well in catching Redfish. They include a gold spoon, several varieties of MirroLure, and jigs. Fish these around structures during rising and falling tides.

Conditions

The fishery is currently struggling. There has been a decline in the number of fish and commercial and recreational fishing are suffering. Less money is being brought in and less and less people are coming to the fishery for the red drum. If the fishing continues to go on the way it is the fish population will continue to decline more and more rapidly.
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Habitat

The habitat is along shell bars and rocky or grassy shorelines and on shallow flats off the coast of Florida. Reds also forage in the surf of outside beaches nearly everywhere on the Gulf Coast and along the upper half of the East Coast, especially in the fall. They roam into coastal rivers and creeks at any time of year, and in winter swarm into them, seeking warmer water.


Adjustments to the Fishery

The type of fishing gear used is not one of the major problems because there is not very much bycatch. However decreasing the sport fishing and access to the fishery would certainly help. Lures with less hooks should be used so the fish can be thrown back with minimal damage. Also, less commercial fishing boats that harvest large amounts of fish should be allowed in order to prevent over-fishing. Fishing for red drum will be prohibited from the months of November to March and during the legal time when they can be harvested only 2 per person per day can be caught and kept. The red drum may not be harvested at all in federal waters.

Overall Plan

The overall plan entails the reduction of many things because the main problem is overfishing. There are no epidemics hitting this population of fish and no predators seriously killing them off except for humans. The plan is to greatly decrease the number of sport fishing events that take place per year. The Florida Pro Redfish series will be halted completely for the year of 2015 in order to help the population grow. However commercial fishing will still be allowed but with more restrictions than were present before. The restrictions are a decrease in the number of months per year that the fish may be harvested. They may not be harvested from the months of November to March as was stated before. This is only a 2 month increase in the number of months that it is illegal. That is a small price to pay for the long term regrowth of the population. Also, decrease the number of commercial fishing boats that participate per year by 15%. Next is to prevent recreational users from fishing for red drum in the shallow areas. The red drum living in this area are typically not yet fully grown and have not been able to reproduce yet. The recreational users must go out into the deeper water in order to fish for the red drum where they are almost all fully grown and at or past reproductive age. We believe these decreases in the number of fish that are allowed to be caught along with when and where will help to increase their population size so that it is back to normal again. When the population is back to a sustainable size some of these laws may be lifted, but until that time they must be followed closely.