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Mote Marine Lab releases largest hatchery-reared red drum in its history

June 30, 2023  By Hatchery International staff

Mote raises and releases largest number of hatchery-reared red drum in its history (Photo: Mote Marine Laboratory)

Mote Marine Laboratory has successfully raised and released 20,000 red drum fish in the Sarasota and Charlotte counties this June in its efforts to enhance its local populations.

Mote’s Aquaculture and Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Programs combined effort marks the largest red drum production in the laboratory’s 25-year history of fisheries conservation. The goal of replenishing the red drum populations negatively affected by cold stuns and the Florida red tide (K. brevis algae blooms).

“Ever since we participated in a snook release with Mote a few years ago, we knew that we had to recreate a release with red drum,” said Joe Simonds, co-founder of Salt Strong. Salt Strong is the largest saltwater fishing club in America and has partnered with Mote to support the laboratory’s work in its enhancement programs.

“The more we talked with Mote about the lack of reliable data on past red drum releases, our entire team and members became incredibly excited that we’d be one of the first ever to PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag this many red drum,” Simonds said. “So not only will this large release give Southwest Florida a much-needed increase in red drum, but the data collected will positively impact all future red drum releases.”


Mote’s Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Program manager, Dr. Ryan Schloesser, explains the importance of PIT-tagging the fish, and what can be learned from the data that is collected from these tags.

“We may only ever see a very small percent of released fish again if relying on physical recaptures alone. We know we regularly get data from 80 per cent of the PIT-tagged snook we release, and we can’t wait to see how much PIT tags can show us about red drum stock enhancement,” said Schloesser.

Red drum is one of Florida’s most popular sport fish and plays an important role in drawing recreational anglers to the state. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida is the top-ranked state in economic output from recreational fishing, which draws US$13.8 billion to the economy annually. Saltwater fishing alone generates 67 per cent — US$9.2 billion — of that income.

Red drum, along with snook, are the main test species for restocking efforts statewide. Mote has promoted responsible fisheries enhancement of snook in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more than 25 years.


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