Kids Cup Redfish Tracking Project

About the Redfish Tracking Project ...

Have you ever wondered what happens to your fish when you release it after itís weighed in at a tournament? If you catch your redfish in Pine Island Sound, do you think it will go back? Or, will it hang around in the upper harbor? These are great questions, and the answer is, we donít know, but we want to. Since 2007 Kids Cup participants have been helping researchers learn more about Redfish behavior and specifically where Kids Cup redfish go after being released. Thanks to a collaborative effort of the WaterLIFE Kids Cup tournament and a number of scientific entities, weighed in redfish were tagged as part of a research and education program. The beauty of this tagging program is that not only are researchers having the opportunity to learn about redfish behavior, so are participants.

At each annual Tournament Weigh Master, Capt. Ralph tagged every redfish weighed in with a dart tag. Each tag has a unique identification number. This tag is visible to anglers and the data received from these tags is almost entirely angler dependent. What I mean by this is that researchers and participants only receive information about the tagged fish if an angler catches the fish, records the tag number and location the fish was caught, and reports these finding via the phone number listed on the tag.

In addition to the dart tags, 20 randomly selected tournament redfish received a sonic tag. The sonic tag is implanted into the redfish by scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, University of Florida and Progress Energy. The sonic tag is not readily visible to anglers. Data is being received from these tags using under water sensors called VR2s (VEMCO). Mote and Sea Grant have deployed VR2s along the path that we suspect redfish will travel. Each unit is able receive information from the sonic tag within a radius (array) around the underwater sensor. So if a sonically tagged fish travels within the underwater array, the tag transmits a unique signal (frequency) to the VR2 where it is stored. Weekly, we are going out to download the underwater sensors to receive the data so that we can see which of our tagged fish were in the area of the VR2s.

The sonic tags can also be picked up by a unit deployed off of the side of a vessel. This unit is called a VR100. FWC  provided a VR100 for the tournaments and some follow up events. With the VR100 we will attempt to go out and find our tagged fish and follow them for a period of time.

This tagging effort is an important step in the understanding of redfish behavior and travel patterns. Remember it is up to each of us to make this program a success. Spread the word about the importance of collecting dart tagged fish information (Date, Place of Capture, Length of Fish, Tag #) and calling that information in to the Redfish hotline 1-800-367-4461 (you may find dart tags on other fish species too).

Many thanks to everyone involved in this project (see Partner page), including our volunteers who without, this project would not be possible!