FL Commission wants state promoted as fishing capital of

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Friday, January 25, 2002

'Fishing Capital' label puts bull's eye on state.

Jordan Kahn/Daytona Beach News Journal

When I heard the Florida Wildlife Commission's plan to promote Florida as "The Fishing Capital of the World" my initial reaction of pride quickly changed to doubt and dread.

"No need to be modest about it," the FWC press release reads, "Florida is the hands-down, unchallenged, indisputable Fishing Capital of the World."

There's no question that Florida is an anglers' paradise, and many a whopper has been pulled out of Sunshine State waters, but "Fishing Capital of the World?"

Even if it is true, letting everyone in on it is about as smart as peeking at your poker cards and suddenly grinning like a wolf.

Fisheries are overly pressured as it is, and with the secret-spot mentality of many anglers, the added boat traffic won't be welcomed.

"Careful scientific managment by the FWC staff entitles the state to claim the Fishing Capital of the World title," FWC chairman John Rood said in the press release.

You can bet the hordes of trophy hunters answering that dinner bell will be careful and scientific about limiting out every day they fish here. Then where will Florida's fish stocks be?

At least most of the added fishing will be done with guides who often insist on catch and release.

DOES IT ADD UP?

Henry Cabbage, the FWC communications director, said there's "a laundry list" of information to support the world fishing capital title, but he also said proving the claim isn't easy.

Foremost on the "laundry list," Cabbage said, is the 700-plus world-record fish caught in Florida, which is more than any other state or country.

Doug Blodgett, the world records administrator for the International Game Fish Association, said Florida holds 738 world records: Key West alone holds 165 of those, Miami 36 and Daytona Beach holds three. California is second with 336 records, and Australia is a close third with 324.

But Florida doesn't even have the largest commercial catch in the U.S. The top five markets are Alaska, Louisiana, California, Virginia and Nova Scotia.

According to the 2002 World Book, China has the largest commercial catch of fish and shellfish in the world with 36,440,000 tons compared to the U.S. in fifth place with 5,920,000 tons. Yet China holds just two world records.

IGFA rules for world-record catch submissions call for a picture of the fish, a fee of up to $25 with a written application and samples of the fishing line. If the picture isn't perfectly clear, the submission has to contain a scientist's signature. The IGFA says if a scientist isn't available, the fish should be frozen until a scientist can inspect it.

Point being, there a lot of anglers in the world that aren't looking to do much else with their fish but sprinkle lemon and butter on it.

Maybe China is the real "Fishing Capital of the World" and just hasn't filled out the right application yet.

The FWC says Florida is the No. 1 fishing destination in the world, but neither Cabbage nor Dave Harding, the FWC's economic analyst, knew how many people visited Florida to go fishing.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service numbers show that Florida sold more non-resident fishing licenses than any other state in 2000. To be exact, 534,732. (Wisconsin was second with 412,765.)

Still, Florida was only third in the nation in resident licenses sold and sixth in total licenses sold. California was first in total licenses with 2,189,997. Florida had 1,180,331. Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Michigan rounded out the top five.

Bull's eye on Florida

"Maybe per capita, we might have the highest percentage of anglers," Blodgett said. "But there are more records set here."

Blodgett acknowledged that Florida's high number of records may be due to a higher level of participation in record-seeking here than elsewhere. But the Sunshine State's warm waters are a great environment for big fish, he said.

Stamping "Fishing Capital of the World" on Florida's fish stocks might not be the best way to keep all those big fish hanging around, though.

However, Rood said that because fishing license revenues fund conservation work, attracting more anglers to Florida "is in the best interests of the fisheries."

Try telling that to a redfish. "Fishing Capital of the World?" The campaign logo oughta be a bull's eye.

Kahn is the News-Journal's Outdoors Writer. He can be reached by e-mail at jordan.kahn@news-jrnl.com.
 

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