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Anglers, be aware – tagged cobia in Florida waters

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A cobia tagging project is underway along Florida’s east coast. Scientists with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute are tagging cobia in order to track movement of the fish to learn more about the migration of the Gulf and Atlantic stocks.

Researchers are using conventional dart tags and implanted acoustic transmitters to track mature fish. An array of acoustic receivers along the coast can detect the individual fish when they swim nearby. The movement patterns will provide more information to management to make informed decisions on the stocks and to provide a geographical location of the biological stock boundary. In addition, scientists are collecting genetic samples from tagged fish.

A total of 150 transmitters (50 each in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) will be used for the one-year study.

“The transmitters, however, will last for up to four years allowing researchers to continue collecting information after the initial report is complete,” said Jim Whittington, FWRI Assistant Research Scientist.

The research will employ charter boat captains and recreational fishermen to assist with cobia capture, acoustic tag implantation and genetic sample collection. Researchers from NASA/Kennedy Space Center Ecological Program, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources are assisting in the project.

In addition to the acoustic transmitter, fish are tagged with two conventional dart tags near the dorsal fin and measured before being released. This method of tag implementation has been used successfully for many species of fish, including common snook.

In addition to the acoustic transmitter, fish are tagged with two conventional dart tags near the dorsal fin and measured before being released. This method of tag implementation has been used successfully for many species of fish, including common snook.

Cobia is a popular saltwater recreational fishery in the southeastern United States due to its ease of access, brute fighting strength and excellent culinary qualities. Although it is not illegal, scientists discourage the harvest of tagged cobia. If you catch a tagged cobia (two plastic tags should be visible on the back of the fish, one on each side) record the tag number, fork length, date and general location of the catch. Release the fish in good condition, and report it by calling 888-824-7472. If you accidentally harvest a tagged cobia, report all of the information above and return both the internal acoustic tag and plastic dart tag to:

Beau Yeiser and JJ Brodbeck, biologists with our Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) Program, hold a tagged cobia caught offshore of Stuart, FL. Our fisheries staff in Tequesta are monitoring the movements of adult cobia in offshore waters using acoustic receiver technology. Tracking the movements of cobia (Rachycentron canadum) will allows researchers to determine migration patterns and the geographical location of the biological Atlantic and Gulf stock boundary.

Beau Yeiser and JJ Brodbeck, biologists with our Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) Program, hold a tagged cobia caught offshore of Stuart, FL. Our fisheries staff in Tequesta are monitoring the movements of adult cobia in offshore waters using acoustic receiver technology. Tracking the movements of cobia (Rachycentron canadum) will allows researchers to determine migration patterns and the geographical location of the biological Atlantic and Gulf stock boundary.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Attn: Jim Whittington, Tequesta Field Laboratory 19100 SE Federal Highway, Tequesta, FL 33469.

Anglers can also assist by collecting fin clips from cobia caught on the east coast of Florida. For more information on what to do if you catch a tagged fish in Florida waters, visit MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Angler Tag Return.” For information on cobia regulations visit  MyFWC.com/fishing, click on “Saltwater Fishing” “Recreational Regulations” and “Cobia.”

The receiver can hear a tag up to a half-kilometer away. When a tagged fish swims in proximity to a receiver, the unique code, date and time are recorded on the receiver. Scientists download data from the receivers every few months and discover which tagged fish have been in the area.

The receiver can hear a tag up to a half-kilometer away. When a tagged fish swims in proximity to a receiver, the unique code, date and time are recorded on the receiver. Scientists download data from the receivers every few months and discover which tagged fish have been in the area.

The acoustic tag transmits a unique code every 120 seconds that can only be detected by an underwater piece of equipment called a receiver.

The acoustic tag transmits a unique code every 120 seconds that can only be detected by an underwater piece of equipment called a receiver.

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Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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