Study: Does catch and release really work for speckled trout?

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Does catch and release work as a management tool for speckled trout?
It has been argued that mortality of released trout is high and that catch-and-release of the species is nothing more than a concept purposed to make the angler feel good about himself. But what is the real scoop?
A thesis conducted by James T. James with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi gives an exhaustive look at the subject right here in Texas waters.
From July 2004 to June 2005, a total of 479 spotted seatrout ranging from 220 – 555 mm total length were captured by hook-and-line in Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays and maintained in replicated field enclosures for a period of 72 hours.
Overall mortality for the experimental studies was 19 percent.
For anatomical studies, hooking location was assigned to four body regions: mouth, gills, esophagus, and external.
Study results suggest anatomical hooking location is a major factor influencing spotted seatrout mortality. Fish hooked in the gills and esophagus had mortality rates of 75% and 95%, respectively, whereas fish hooked external and in the mouth had mortalityrates of 8% and 10%, respectively. A significant relationship was found between season and catch-and-release mortality of spotted seatrout with higher mortality rates in spring and summer months than fall and winter. Trends were observed when examining monthly mortality rates and environmental conditions. These trends showed significant relationships with water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity.
Data was also collected on 1,373 spotted seatrout from nine live-release tournaments.
Overall tournament mortality was 23% with initial and delayed mortality rates of 11% and 14%,respectively. To assess delayed long-term tournament survival, fish were maintained in a laboratory holding facility for up to 30 days These results reveal a high percentage-greater than 80 percent of tournament caught fish survive post-release.
No significant relationship was observedbetween size class and percent mortality of fish caught during the seasonal study or tournament-caught fish held for long-term studies. A tagging study was conducted to assess movement and long-term, post-release survival of spotted seatrout. Seven hundred twenty-six spotted seatrout were tagged and released. Tag recovery rate was 1.2% with a total of nine fish recaptured with variable movement patterns. Overall, relatively low mortality rates for hook-and-line captured spotted seatrout were observed suggesting current catch-and-release management regulations in the spotted seatrout fishery are a viable management strategy.
What are your thoughts?
A question we would like to see answered is how the trout were handled at the tournament as that could contribute greatly to survival.
Compiled by Chester Moore, Jr.

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