Fish recovery is more than just maintaining a put-and-take fishery, where hatcheries replenish a body of water and anglers then harvest the majority of the fish each season. Fish restoration projects help native populations recover from declining populations due to factors such as invasive species, changes in water quality or flow, and fishing pressures. Here are three examples of fish restoration in the US
1. Fish restoration projects for Red Snapper
The red snapper is a popular saltwater species found on many restaurant menus. The Red Snapper Range extends from the Carolinas to the Gulf of Mexico and is currently under a rebuilding plan. The harvest rules have changed dramatically. In fact, harvesting red snappers was completely banned in 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2016 to allow more adults to reach reproductive age. With a variety of methods of population estimation and monitoring, this recovery of the fishery appears to be showing signs of recovery.
2. Sturgeon spawns
Since the spawning of sturgeon is heavily affected by damming and they are slow to reach spawning maturity, there are various projects to restore fish from sturgeon species. The critically endangered pale sturgeon is the subject of studies in the Missouri River. In New York, the threatened sea sturgeon is benefiting from population efforts in areas where these fish once lived. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, approximately 14,500 sea sturgeon were stored in October 2018 to facilitate statistical analysis of the post-recapture population.
3. Greenback Cutthroat Trout
The greenback is a species of cutthroat trout that once lived in high alpine streams throughout the South Platte Basin area of Colorado and Wyoming. It used to be considered extinct, now it is considered threatened but is limited to only a handful of small streams and lakes along the Front Range of Colorado. Habitat improvement and stocking efforts are contributing to the recovery of this fish. I helped culture the Greenback Cutthroat Trout at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery in 1996 and was thrilled to find them in streams when I visited Rocky Mountain National Park about twenty years later.
The success of a fish restoration depends not only on the collaboration of various fishing partners on a state, federal or private level, but also on the public. Follow the rules and watch out for efforts to protect fragile fish. With a little help, native fish populations can recover enough to become a special treat for anglers. And buying your fishing license helps!
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida but raised on the banks of farm ponds in Oklahoma, he now hunts pike, small bass and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After graduating with a degree in zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, in the US state of Iowa and the US state of Michigan.