When humans and fish were evolving together, catching and consuming fish was a matter of survival. Later, catches offered something to barter or sell. Now, most people fish recreationally. Regardless of the purpose behind fishing, big catches stroke the angler’s ego.
Today, recreational fishing has an annual $7.5 billion economic impact in Florida. Habitat conservation and regulations help sustain these fisheries, but with greater demand it is increasingly important to protect and recycle the largest trophy fish by also promoting voluntary catch-and-release.
Florida’s “Big Catch” angler recognition program helps stroke the ego of successful anglers by allowing them to show off their prowess. The Big Catch program provides a framable, full-color certificate and window sticker for anglers who catch any of 33 species of listed freshwater fishes that exceed a minimum length or weight. If people catch five qualifying fish of the same species, they are recognized as a Specialist. If they report five qualifying fish of different species, they become a Master Angler, and if they take and report qualifying fish representing 10 different species, they are an Elite Angler.
Young people can enter fish that are approximately 25 percent smaller than adult qualifying sizes.
For more on this story, see the August 25 issue of the Navarre Press or subscribe online.