Game Fish By-Catch in Commercially Fished Hoop Nets in the St. Johns River, Florida

Incidental game fish capture and mortality in St. Johns River hoop nets is a major source of controversy between sport and commerical interests. The controversy is most severe in that portion of the river from Lake George southward. Project personnel observed 574 hoop nets that had been fished 3,896 hoop net-days over a 12-month period. Four species of catfish comprised 84.8% of the total harvest while the game fish by-catch represented approximately 13%. Harvestable size game fish (that size game fish retained by the sport fisherman) comprised 1.4% of the total harvest. Initial mortality was 2.0% for all game fish caught, but no initi~ mortality for any harvestable size game fish was observed. On the basis of an estimated total fishing pressure of 3,000 hoop nets in the St. Johns River from Lake George southward, 3,171 game fish were caught daily, 346 of which were of harvestable size. Although hoop nets can be modified to catch large numbers of game fish, results indicated that legal fishing operations had no significant impact upon game fish populations.

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