Benefits of Live-release Fishing Tournaments

Greg Purtle | Upper Laguna Madre Coastal Fisheries Division Intern
Benefits of Live-release Fishing Tournaments
As a marine biology student at Texas A&M University and Corpus Christi resident for the last three years, I've had the privilege of experiencing the great recreational fishing that the Coastal Bend has to offer. Whether it's going offshore to catch red snapper or fishing off a local pier, Texas waters provide great fishing opportunities for all skill levels. Despite the hours of fishing I had done as a student, I had never experienced a fishing tournament in person until I attended the Mr. and Ms. Big Trout tournament and truly enjoyed the experience. It was remarkable to see all of the fishermen bringing in their catch and waiting to see if they landed on the leaderboard. The greatest spectacle however, was watching these tournament winning spotted sea trout, red drum, and southern flounder being released back into the water. What a concept it was, to have a tournament for teams to compete for cash and bragging rights but to also see the fish going unharmed, back into their own ecosystem. This live-release tournament helped to prove to me that fishing tournaments can be exciting and competitive while having a minimal impact on local waters.

Overall, fishing tournaments can be very beneficial to the local economy, bringing in revenue to local businesses. About 10% of saltwater angling activity is associated with tournament fishing while the other 90% is associated with non-tournament fishing as indicated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries dependent data. Large tournaments can gather hundreds of people to local areas, bringing in money not normally spent there. However, tournaments not only provide money to local areas, but provide an opportunity for advertising. In some cases businesses will help fund tournaments for advertising purposes, helping them get their brand out to a wider client base. With enough business sponsors and entry fees paid, tournaments can generate quite a bit of money.

For the past seven years, the organizers of the Mr. and Ms. Big Trout tournament have been using the money generated from the tournament to fund scholarships for local marine biology students. Working as a summer intern with TPWD- Coastal Fisheries Division staff, these students gain an understanding and appreciation of fisheries management practices. This provides students with real world experience in the field that they are studying. With increased knowledge about the local fisheries, students solidify what they've learned in the classroom, have a better understanding of the process involved with managing the state's marine resources, and are better prepared for employment in the field.

One of the benefits of live-release tournaments are that they encourage and foster responsible environmental stewardship. These tournaments provide an outlet to teach respect for the environment and to understand the impacts that our actions have on fisheries resources while still providing the excitement and fun that competitive fishing brings to the table. The benefits are on both sides, with fishermen still being able to fish in tournaments and local populations of fish going relatively unharmed. Combined with educational outreach, live-release tournaments can have positive impacts on our local communities and waters helping to keep our coastline healthy and pristine.

On a much larger scale, overfishing of the world's oceans has started to concern some biologists about future sustainability, but this does not have to be the case on a local scale. Local policies and accountability measures can make a big impact in local waters. Better public understanding and education can help inform anglers about these impacts putting into motion more progressive conservation efforts leading to sustainable fishing practices.

When talking about global and local ecosystem health, it may have you asking how you can make a difference. Live-release tournaments are one way to do just that. They provide a number of benefits to local fishermen and communities while assuring ecosystems remain healthy and intact. So the next time you are signing up for or organizing a fishing tournament, think about all the positives that a live-release tournament can bring to your local area. These benefits will allow you and others to keep tournament winning fish in the water. And who knows, maybe you will be hoisting the trophy next year because of these benefits.