Short-Term Hook Release Mortality in Chesapeake Bay’s Recreational Tautog Fishery
J. A. Lucy and M. D. Arendt
Hook release mortality rates can be affected by various fishing practices including hook wound location, baited hooks versus lures, and fish handling stress, as well as environmental factors, i.e., water temperature and capture depth (Muoneke and Childress 1994). Release mortality is typically greater for fish with swim bladders taken from deeper water (Wilson and Burns 1996). Although hook release mortality rates of fish are variable depending upon the species in question, fishing practices, and fishing season (Muoneke and Childress 1994), fishery management plan (FMP) technical committees must often use discard mortality levels to estimate overall fishing mortality and update stock assessments without the benefit of research data.
In the mid-1980s, annual tautog Tautoga onitis landings declined throughout northeast and mid-Atlantic states, reaching record lows in 1993–1994. To reduce fishing mortality the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) developed a FMP for tautog in April 1996 (ASMFC 1996). Among its regulations states had to increase minimum catch sizes to 330 mm (13 inches) total length (TL) in 1997 and to 356 mm (14 in) TL in 1998. The tautog FMP assumed a recreational discard mortality of 25%.