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Programs help fish population

March 13, 2010

As avid anglers what can we do to directly help to maintain healthy populations of the fish we seek?

Two projects come to mind that benefit two highly prized Florida gamefish - the silver king and the grey ghost. For the beginner, that's tarpon and permit.

The Tarpon Genetic Recapture Program has been under way for some time now, using DNA sampling kits provided free by the state. Simply catch a tarpon, not always the easiest thing to do and the reason God made fishing guides, and gather a DNA sample by simply wiping a swab from the kit along the jaw of the fish. Enclose it in its vial and send it off to the lab. These kits are available at 165 locations, or by calling 800-367-4461, or by email at

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Project Permit hopes to capture and tag 6,000 permit this season to monitor over the next five years. Again, catch a permit, usually even harder to do, especially if you seek them on the flats. Follow the tagging instructions and send the sample away. Check out for tagging kits and instructions.

Tagging or DNA sampling are valuable tools for biologists to monitor stocks, mortality rates, seasonal movements, recaptures, and to gather other valuable information to help provide healthy fish populations and promote sensible game laws and limits.

Southwest Florida anglers and boaters in particular, historically have been the victims of inaccurate or "junk science" by certain groups to promote their causes. These programs help nail down the facts and are a win for the angler and science alike. Tagging and DNA sampling are easy to do and of great value. Get involved.

I recently penned an article geared toward the nonboating Florida fisherman and the many opportunities available to the "walking angler." First, a question.

What freshwater fish is as strong as a redfish? Can be caught sightfishing in skinny water like a redfish? "Tails" like a redfish on shallow flats and attains double-digit weight. Will readily take bait or inhale a fly like a red and is even shaped like and in some cases the same color as a redfish and is Europe's most popular and prized gamefish. If you guessed the lowly carp you are a winner.

Today, the wind was blowing rocks around and I decided to forego the boat, but was still itching to fish. Traveling to a nearby condo complex that has two ponds containing some bass and, I found out today, some rather large Asian "redfish."

I armed myself with an antique Fenwick 6 wt. fly rod that I inherited in the '60s, figuring the large buildings would shield me from the wind and give me a chance to have some fun using this relic of a rod.

After loosing up my casting arm I was soon into small bass when I caught a glimpse of a couple of large tails breaking the surface in a sheltered corner of the pond. Cutting off my streamer fly I quickly added a fairly large nymph to the line.

Judging the direction of the feeding fish I placed a cast allowing the nymph to touch down about two feet in front of the feeding fish. As it slowly sank I noticed a slight wake and a subtle twitch of the line. Like any experienced fly fishermen, I performed a "strip strike" and suddenly a huge boil appeared followed instantly by a huge wake as a jumbo "Asian red" left town at warp speed.

Forty-five minutes later I waded out and with a sore arm cradled a 22-pound, dog tired carp to the cheers of 10 condo residents that had observed the epic battle. Not bad for a 50-year-old rod and six-pound test leader.

Redfish always put a smile on my face, but no bigger then the one today.

Fishing fun is wherever you find it.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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