VENICE, LA — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is taking an active role in tarpon fishery research to gain insight into the biology of this fascinating species, including plans to host their first annual tarpon tournament late this summer.
The tarpon is a highly prized sport fish, widely distributed in warm temperature, subtropical and tropical waters. Management practices for tarpon vary from limited to none because very little is known about the movements and migrations, population dynamics, life histories and reproduction that are needed to sustain a fishery for this amazing species.
Tarpon anglers are known for their passion for the sport while protecting it for future generations, so a catch-and-release ethic is becoming more commonplace.
Beginning in 2010, the Department in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory, extended the Tarpon Genetics Recapture Study to the coastal waters of Louisiana.
Engaging anglers in collecting DNA samples from the tarpon they catch is the key component of the study’s success. When anglers catch a tarpon and collect a DNA sample for the study, they are contributing valuable information to a growing database. The DNA fingerprint technique is a very easy, non-invasive and harmless way to “tag” the tarpon by scraping skin cells from the outer jaw or other bony surface with a small abrasive sponge.
Anglers from Louisiana have provided nearly 100 samples since 2011. This data is incredibly valuable to fishery scientists trying to understand differences in tarpon populations from area to area. “It’s great that we can track the migratory patterns of these fish and see where they are going, and if there are resident fish off the coast of Louisiana,” said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina.
In support of furthering tarpon research efforts, the Louisiana Saltwater Series, sponsored by LDWF, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation, Shimano and PowerPro, will host a tarpon tournament during its 2013 tournament season on August 24 and 25 out of Venice Marina. This is not your traditional fishing contest – while pride is derived from winning the event, the true motivation is to be part of the most comprehensive, coordinated and information gathering effort in the history of tarpon research. That’s the prize.
“Tournaments are the most efficient method for tagging fish,” explained Pausina. “The probability of tagging targeted fish goes up during tournaments because the experience level of participating anglers is very high.”
Cash prizes aren’t awarded to the team who catches the biggest fish. It’s all about the number of fish tagged during the contest. The tournament is 100 percent payout, with a $300 entry fee per team.
The need for biological samples is specifically focused on the question of the reproductive capabilities of tarpon in Louisiana’s waters, as well as other scientific questions focused on Louisiana’s tarpon resource. DNA samples will be collected from both landed and released fish to help us understand the population structure of tarpon in the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent waters. LDWF biologists will also be on hand during the tournament to attach electronic tags to some of the released tarpon which will generate data that will tell us more about the vertical behavior, migratory patterns, and post-release survival of tarpon.
A kill fish division will also be offered at the tournament, and the team who submits the largest fish will be honored with the Coon Pop Classic Harvie Hawthorne Memorial Trophy.
“The Department’s intent in supporting a kill division is to obtain a small number of biological samples from Louisiana waters that will help to generate sound research-based regional management of Louisiana’s historically and biologically significant tarpon resource,” explained Pausina.
Specifically, gonads will be removed for studies of reproductive biology, ear bones for age and growth studies, and stomachs for investigations of feeding behavior.
For more information or to register, visit www.lasaltwaterseries.com . Online registration will close at noon on Thursday, August 22, but interested anglers will still have the opportunity to register at the Captain’s Meetings on Friday night held in Grand Isle and Venice.
Tournament sponsors include Shimano, PowerPro, Daybrook Fisheries, Plaquemines Parish, Mercury Marine, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Standard Mapping, Faux Pas Prints, Marsh & Bayou, Swamp Swatter, Frabill, Stick It Anchor Pins and YETI Coolers.
The Louisiana Saltwater Series is hosted in conjunction with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation. The LWFF was founded to provide a means for individuals and corporations to become partners with the Department and Commission in the challenge of conserving Louisiana’s wildlife and fish resources.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov  on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb  or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.
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