Catch and Release in Marine Recreational Fisheries

Preliminary Analysis of No-Take Reserves on World Records at Cape Canaveral, Florida

J. A. Bohnsack


Two aquatic areas, covering approximately 22% (40 km2) of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge (MIWR), were closed to fishing beginning in 1962 for security of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This action created the first estuarine, largest and oldest no-take reserves in North America. Areas surrounding the no-fishing areas are important for recreational fishing, including catch-and-release sport fishing (Cocking 1999).

Johnson et al. (1999) compared fish populations in three no-fishing areas with three adjacent fished areas at Cape Canaveral between 1986 and 1990. They documented significantly higher average fish biodiversity and catch per unit effort (CPUE) for several economically important species in no-fishing zones than in surrounding fished areas in the Mosquito Lagoon, South Banana River, and Indian River Lagoon. Fishes captured from no-take areas also tended to be larger and older than those from fished areas, and many were in breeding condition. Tagging showed that some fishes moved from protected areas to surrounding fished areas. Johnson et al. (1999) did not, however, investigate impacts of the no-take reserves on nearby fisheries.

Using available published International Game fish Association (IGFA) world records from 1955 through 1997 (e.g., IGFA 1997), two hypotheses were tested: the first, that the number of world records around Cape Canaveral was no different than those from other areas around Florida (spatial hypothesis) and the second, that the proportion of recreational world records near MIWR has not changed since areas were closed to fishing (temporal hypothesis).