CCA NC Applauds Z-Man’s Catch and Release Campaign

By Callie Freeman
CCA NC Staff Writer

In a farsighted move last week, Z-Man® Fishing Products launched the social media campaign #RELEASE2018SC asking consumers in their home-based state of South Carolina to practice catch-and-release of spotted seatrout plus other inshore species for the duration of the 2018 year.
The plea comes on the heels of a widespread cold stun event that has impacted species across several Atlantic coast states. A cold stun event occurs when water temperatures dip below 44°F. If temperatures drop quickly, fish may not have enough time to escape into deep-water channels. Additionally the longer these frigid temperatures remain the more likely fish are to perish from chronic stress.

On January 5th, The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries closed all coastal and joint waters to commercial and recreational spotted seatrout harvest due to a widespread cold stun. CCA NC Executive Director David Sneed praised newly appointed DMF Director Steve Murphy for taking swift action to safeguard seatrout stocks. “It’s very positive that the first action of the new director was a proclamation to protect a fragile fishery,” Sneed said. Director Sneed also applauded Z-Man®, makers of the popular ElaZtech® soft plastics, saying, “CCA NC commends Daniel and Z-Man® for their proactive, grassroots effort to protect coastal resources. We have enjoyed our relationship tremendously and this campaign demonstrates why we couldn’t be prouder to be affiliated.”

ZMan®’s Catch and Release Campaign Sticker

“If we commit to practicing catch-and-release through 2018, not only will fish be able to spawn in 2018, but most will also survive to spawn in 2019,” Z-Man® President Daniel Nussbaum stated on his website late last week. To promote their catch-and-release campaign, Z-Man® is giving away seatrout-shaped stickers emblazoned with the hashtag #RELEASE2018SC and is encouraging the public to take the pledge and use the hashtag in all social media posts. After suffering their own cold stun event this year, the Coastal Resources Department of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources enacted the “angler driven” Operation R.O.E., Release Over Eighteen, to encourage anglers to release fish over eighteen inches through September. “Protecting larger, older fish following a cold winter event may help the population rebound in the absence of smaller fish that may have been lost,” stated Pat Geer, Chief of Marine Fisheries, in a recent press release.

Fig. 1 Spotted Seatrout fecundity increases dramatically as they age.1

Spotted seatrout appear to be most susceptible to these events. Younger, smaller seatrout making up the bulk of the population suffer the greatest mortality during cold stuns.
Fortuitously, female spotted seatrout ovaries make up a greater percentage of their body weight as they age leading to a dramatic increase in fecundity1 (Fig 1). For this reason, the presence of large females will be critical to bolstering the stock this spawning season. These large, prolific spawners may be few however.

As of 1996, South Carolina DNR scientists estimate an annual mortality rate of 70% (37 to 44% due to fishing) for spotted seatrout, a gamefish in South Carolina. Figure 2 illustrates that if one begins with 1,000 spotted seatrout, the number will be reduced to 300 individuals by year one and two individuals by year five. Spotted seatrout display sexual dimorphism, with females dwarfing males after maturity is reached2 (Fig. 3 and 4). This is significant since most large fish caught are likely the very females needed to spawn.

Fig. 2 The rate of disappearance of a hypothetical group of 1,000 fish with a death rate of 70% per year (which is approximately our present estimate for the death rate of spotted seatrout in South Carolina). The numbers beside each of the symbols represent the age of the fish. If you start at time 0 with 1,000 age 1 fish that die at a rate of 70% per year, in one year you will have 300 age 2 fish remaining; in two years, you will have 90 age 3 fish, and so forth. Note that at this death rate, few old, large fish remain. Figure from Winner and Archmbaault 1996.2

Fig. 3 Comparison of the weight of males and females for each age during May. Once again, these values are for ‘average’ males and females in each age class. At age 1, the weights of the two sexes are quite close. The difference in the weight at a given age between the two sexes gets larger as they age. For example, a five year old female is almost twice as heavy as a five year old male, which is the same weight as a three year old female. Figure taken from Wenner and Archmbaault 1996.2

Fig. 4 Comparison of the length of males and females for each age during May. These values are for ‘average’ males and females in each age class. Note that after age one, females are considerably larger than males at the same age. Females reach a larger ultimate size and grow faster during the first three years of life than males. Figure taken from Wenner and Archmbaault 1996.2

The North Carolina spotted seatrout fishery will open June 15, 2018 by proclamation.

 References
1. Operation R.O.E Fact Sheet http://coastalgadnr.org/sites/default/files/crd/ROE/Operation_ROE_Fact_Sheet.pdf
2. Wenner and Archambaault. 1996. Spotted Seatrout: Natural History and Fishing Techniques in South Carolina. Educational Report No. 18 Marine Resources Research Institute South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. 56pp