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Redfish catch, hold and release tournaments - FAQs

In response to numerous questions from tournament anglers, the Division of Marine Fisheries Management has compiled the most frequently asked questions and answers.  Please use the email link at the bottom of this webpage if there are additional questions, and watch for new questions and answers attached to future culling permits.

Why isn't there a tagging program to gather information on redfish that are caught and released during redfish tournaments?

There are several reasons why angler-based tagging programs are not the scientific data collection method of choice:

  1. Tagging programs are very labor intensive and require a lot of manpower to manage.  Not having enough manpower, or money to provide manpower are always issues for research.
  2. Anglers (for the most part) do not have enough training to tag fish and can cause more harm than good to the fish during the tagging process.
  3. Even though fish may be tagged during a tournament, it is not scientifically possible to directly calculate whether or not a fish died just because of tournament-related activities. More controls are needed to be able to collect solid data on mortality (deaths).
  4. On average, a tagging program will get 1- to 5-percent tag-return information. There are other scientific data collection methods that are not as labor intensive and can produce better information.

This is not to say that the FWC has ruled out using angler-based tagging programs as a data collection method.  The FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is considering using angler-based tagging programs in the future but those programs will be subject to very controlled circumstances to preserve the integrity of the data collected.

What do redfish eat during their different life cycles?

Redfish eat plankton for approximately their first month and then transition to eating crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, oysters, worms, etc. that are suited for their size as they grow.  Redfish, like many other fish are opportunistic and will eat what is readily available such as smaller fish, but they mainly feed on crustaceans.  Adult redfish have a sub-terminal jaw where the upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw.  A sub-terminal jaw structure is the sign of a bottom feeder.  Tailing redfish are most likely bottom feeding on crustaceans.

Can you over-oxygenate a livewell?

It is possible to over oxygenate a livewell especially when the livewell has a lid that is kept closed. Closing the lid to a livewell increases the oxygen level which increases respiration by the fish.  This will increase the level of carbon dioxide and other gasses expelled by the fish.  It is recommended that you leave the livewell cracked or open to allow gasses to escape.  Keeping the livewell lid cracked also has the benefit of allowing light in to allow the fish to orient itself.

Excess oxygen will also excite the fish and cause over activity that may lead to the fish bumping and bruising itself in the livewell.  We suggest using an adjustable oxygenation system with ceramic air stones.  Ceramic air stones produce small bubbles that dissolve quickly.  It is important to have a steady, rising stream of bubbles, but the water should not be boiling from the input of oxygen.

The best possible way to avoid over-oxygenating or under-oxygenating a livewell is to use a device that measures dissolved oxygen content in the water.  It is also possible to tell by observing a fish's behavior if the oxygen level is appropriate.  The fish should appear to be relaxed and be opening and closing its gill covers.  If the fish appears overactive, the oxygen level may be too high.  If the fish is coming to the surface, they are looking for more oxygen and the oxygen level may be too low.

Is it better to use medical grade oxygen for the livewell?

We have not found that the grade of oxygen makes a difference.  Our redfish hatchery uses industrial grade oxygen, which is typically used for welding, and it is much less expensive than medical grade oxygen.

Is it better to use a boga grip when handling fish during the measuring and weigh-in process?

Yes and no.  If used correctly, a boga grip can be a benefit.  If the fish is held horizontally and supported at the belly, the boga grip can be helpful by reducing handling and gaining control over the fish to aid transport and measurement.  Unfortunately, when using a boga grip the tendency is to hold the fish vertically and the fish may struggle too hard and break its jaw.  If you choose to use a boga grip, we emphasize that you keep the fish horizontal and support its weight at the belly.

If I have the appropriate size livewell on board to qualify for the culling permit, do I have to put the redfish that I catch during the tournament in it?

Yes.  FWC rule and the culling permit require a livewell minimum size of 18 gallons (9 gallons per fish) so that up to 2 redfish could be maintained on board a vessel with the minimum needed space to survive.  The permit specifically states the following: "All boats used in the tournament must contain recirculating or aerated livewells that are at least 2.4 cubic feet or 18 gallons in capacity.  Any fish caught and culled pursuant to this permit must be maintained in the livewell that meets these specifications."

Contact: or 850-487-0554