Environmental Commentary by Tony Friedrich
Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and its many rivers, creeks and streams is a cherished pastime for countless local residents. Whether a seasoned angler or an excited novice, you cant beat the thrill of being on the water with a fish on.
People who love to fish want to make sure there are still plenty to catch tomorrow and that the next generation has the same opportunities to fish that we do. And to ensure that happens, we need to better understand and manage the fish we care about.
For this, state fishery managers always need more data, particularly about catch-and-release fish. The more they know, the better they can analyze and decide what, how, when and where recreational fishermen and fisherwomen can fish.
Anglers themselves are the best source of information for managers. No one has a better idea of whats really happening beneath the surface, when it comes to Chesapeake Bay sport fish, than those of us with their lines in the water. There are more than 350,000 licensed anglers in Maryland, and everyone can help supply needed data quickly and for free by doing the very thing we love fishing and reporting how we did by using a new Internet-based program.
The program, called Chesapeake Catch, allows anglers to record what we catch using a smartphone app or a website. This is real-time, accurate information about fish species, size and where they are caught, and can help the Maryland Department of Natural Resources make more-informed decisions.
Anyone who comes to Maryland to fish particularly from nearby states like Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia can help.
This groundbreaking initiative began in Florida, where anglers are using the technology to provide valuable data to scientists. In recent years, its been a critical part of the recovery and assessment of Floridas much-loved snook fishery.
Here in Maryland, Chesapeake Catch users can record information about Marylands most popular tidal fish: rockfish (striped bass), redfish (red drum), speckled trout, croaker, yellow perch and shad. All of the other tidal and freshwater species, including invasive species such as the snakehead, can also be recorded.
At the same time, Chesapeake Catch creates a powerful, personal fishing log for anglers who can take notes about their experience on the water and improve their game.
If hundreds or thousands of anglers contributed to this effort, fisheries managers would have a much clearer understanding of the health of the fish stock in any given year.
Chesapeake Catch was built by a group of avid anglers who are leaders in the fishing community, guides and fishing writers. Its built for anglers by anglers. And it works: The more data we have about key species in the Bay, like rockfish caught or released, the better chance well have to keep those fisheries sustainable and keep Maryland anglers fishing.
The free app can be downloaded at iTunes or the Google Play Store, or at www.chesapeakecatch.org. Users can set up their account on the website or the app.
Chesapeake Catch offers anglers a voice in fisheries management.
Lets not let this opportunity be the one that got away.
Tony Friedrich is executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.