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Released November 26, 2003


OCEAN SPRINGS - Local anglers who contribute to fisheries research were in the spotlight during a workshop at The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Nov. 19.

More than 50 anglers, scientists, educators and resource managers convened at the laboratory to recognize top taggers in the lab's sport fish tag-and-release programs. Researchers from the Southern Miss Center for Fisheries Research and Development at the GCRL reported on research programs and results targeting speckled trout, cobia, tripletail and coastal sharks. The GCRL coordinates the volunteer angler tag-and-release program with the support of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program.

"Through the years, thousands of anglers have participated in research programs at the Laboratory," fisheries biologist Jim Franks said. "They have tagged and released fish, and they have recaptured tagged fish. At every stage they have provided information to GCRL researchers about the fish they have caught."

Franks pioneered the lab's first tag-and-release program that used volunteer anglers. He enlisted anglers throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic to help document the movement and growth of cobia, a popular coastal species. He said volunteers are an important element in the discovery of new knowledge about the biology, behavior and ecology of saltwater sport fish in Mississippi.

"Jim started the cobia study in 1988, and we are still learning new things through anglers' cooperation with this research," said fisheries biologist Read Hendon, coordinator of the workshop and the GCRL sport fish tagging program. One example, Hendon said, was the first-ever winter recapture of a tagged cobia in the northern gulf. A Biloxi angler reported the recapture in January 2003.

"We had data showing that cobia migrate from northern gulf waters in late fall to the Florida Keys, where they overwinter. We had also heard of anglers catching cobia in deep waters in the northern gulf in winter, but we didn't have any data to verify that." This recapture has given the researchers data that some cobia do remain in the northern gulf in the winter.

Mike Gottsche of Ocean Springs was the top tagger for tripletail, the lab's newest tag-and-release program. He tagged and released 10 tripletail into Mississippi waters in 2003. Coast artist Mary Wilson presented the Mississippi winner with a framed and signed artist's proof of Wilson's new work, "Triple Play." The watercolor features a lifelike and detailed rendition of a tripletail, also known as blackfish. Wilson's donation of artwork also included unframed and signed artist's proofs to the top tripletail taggers gulf wide - Nick Drinnen of Englewood, Fla., and Troy Perez of Cocoa, Fla.

Tagging and releasing the most legal-sized spotted seatrout, known locally as speckled trout, were Louis Shepard of Gautier with 94 and brothers Tom and Don Perry of Biloxi, who tied for second with 26. The winners received their choice of fishing tackle. An open forum discussion, door prizes and refreshments followed the awards ceremony. Hendon said the open forum each year provides anglers with answers to specific questions and researchers with insight into anglers' concerns that need to be explored through research.

For information on how to receive tagging kits and become a volunteer angler in the program, contact Jim Franks or Read Hendon at (228) 872-4202 or at


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM