For the fifth consecutive year, Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited, and the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science will embark on a one-day bonefish census. Held from Biscayne Bay to Key West on Saturday, Oct. 27, the goal of the census is to determine population trends and most importantly, establish a baseline population count for one of the Sunshine State's most important gamefish.
Last year, more than 60 teams spread out across 19 zones from Key Biscayne to the Marquesas accumulating bonefish sightings during the survey. Census results were then reported to the Rosenstiel School team, headed by Dr. Jerry Ault, professor of marine biology and fisheries. Statistical analyses indicated a population of just over 300,000 bonefish in the Florida Keys fishery.
"Bonefish are one of our most valuable sportfish, contributing revenues of nearly $1 billion to the Florida economy every year," Ault said. "However, these precious bonefish are limited to our own waterways, so getting a handle on their population size and migration patterns is key to making sure they continue to be around for a long, long time. That's why this census is so important."
The Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association, the Lower Keys Fishing Guides Association and the Key Largo Fishing Guides Association will provide boats and people, but the effort always requires additional professional guides and experienced bonefish anglers to make it a true success.
"It is also a great time for anglers to book guides and fish for science, or spend time with a friend counting bones for science," said Sandy Moret, Bonefish and Tarpon Unlimited founding member and co-organizer of the bonefish census. "We urge as many anglers and guides as possible to participate, especially in the Middle and Lower Keys' zones."
Census packages can be obtained at the following locations: Don's Bait and Tackle in Homestead, the Yellow Bait House in Key Largo, Sandy Moret's Florida Keys Outfitters in Islamorada, the World Class Angler in Marathon, the Saltwater Angler in Key West. Packages can also be obtained from the Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited Web site, http://www.tarbone.org; or at UM's Rosenstiel School site http://bonefishresearch.com.