Estimating Annual Game Fish Bycatch in Commercial Fishing Devices from Harvest Data

A major concern in managing commercial fisheries is the potential effect on game fish populations. The objective of this study was to design a model to determine annual game fish bycatch in hoop nets, wire traps, and pound nets utilized in the 51. Johns River, Florida, commercial catfish fishery. Annual bycatch was estimated with a model based on previous estimates of annual catfish harvest, catfish-to-game fish ratios, mean weight of catfish harvested and percentage composition of catfish harvested by each gear type. Hoop nets captured an estimated 435,635 game fish annually with 46,697 and 7,589 game fish captured annually by wire traps and pound nets, respectively. When catches of all 3 gear types were combined, black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus comprised 54.5% by number of all game fish caught, followed by Lepomis spp. (44.4%), Morone spp. (0.7%), largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides (0.4%), and chain pickerel Esox niger (0.01%). Comparison of these bycatch estimates with game fish population estimates, harvest data, and natural mortality estimates will permit assessment of the potential for commercial devices to negatively impact game fish populations.

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