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10 thousand Redfish released near Marco Island to reverse population decline

Posted at 6:49 PM, Sep 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-07 18:49:20-04

MARCO ISLAND, Fla. — If you're an avid fisherman or just enjoy seafood, you've probably heard of Redfish or red drum. These popular game fish have battled over-fishing, habitat changes, harmful algal blooms and red tide over the years.

In order to address decreasing population along Florida’s west coast, Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Florida, in partnership with Duke Energy Mariculture Center and FWC, conducted a major fish release near Marco Island on Wednesday.

“Redfish specifically is one of the most sought-after game fish for recreational fishermen in the state,” said Brian Gorski, Executive Director of CCA Florida.

And with the popularity of the fish and water quality issues we have seen in Southwest Florida, CAA Florida decided to step in.

“The issues with red tide and the number of fish species suffering from that and perishing from red tide, we felt it was important to continue those efforts, especially in Southwest Florida,” said Gorski.

10,000 hatchery-reared, juvenile redfish, ranging from three to four inches in size, were part of the release on Wednesday. Gorski said releases like this can help the species recover and maintain their footprint in our waterways.

“Whether it be storms, hurricanes, and loss of habitat from that to red tide and water quality issues, and we pick this particular area because of the water quality down there and the habitat,” said Gorski.

Gorski said these particular redfish were raised in unique “grow out” ponds, where the fish are raised to be prepared for the experience they would have in the wild.

“They are susceptible in these grow out ponds to predators, from birds, they are fighting themselves for feed and food, as opposed to raising fish in either a round or square tank indoors and dumping them out in the water,” said Gorski.

Gorski said while releasing the fish won’t fix our water issues in Florida, it will help our sustainability. He said there are several issues that we need to address as Floridians.

“Septic tanks to runoff. Fertilizer. You name it. The list is long,” said Groski. “Development. Population of the coastline. It goes on and on and on.”

As for the Redfish, they grow about an inch per month. CCA Florida tells Fox 4 these fish will reach slot size of 18 inches with a year or two and will start to reproduce around the same size.