Sport Fish Restoration Projects

An overview of fresh and saltwater projects funded with money from the Sport Fish Restoration Program. The project objectives vary from researching Florida's sport fish to teaching women and children how to fish. For more details on historic projects funded by Federal Aid in Florida, access the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration Program overview.

Marine Fisheries Statistics
Researchers monitor marine fish, crab, and shrimp populations in selected bay systems throughout the state. Areas of research include Apalachicola Bay, Cedar Key, Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Indian River Lagoon, southeast Florida, Jacksonville and the Florida Keys. Data collected in this program are used in other research projects, such as sport fish genetics and sport fish health monitoring. Resource managers use the data collected in all of these projects in making management decisions.

Marine Game Fish Abundance, Ecology and Life History

Scientists gather information on the behavior, ecology, and life history of Florida's coastal and estuarine (an estuary is a partially enclosed water-body or bay where fresh water and salt water mix) fish species. Current research focuses on popular inshore species including tarpon, bonefish, snook, spotted seatrout, red drum, and permit, as well as several reef fish species including goliath grouper and mutton snapper. More data are needed to assess the population status of each of these recreationally important species. This information is vital for developing management plans at the state and federal levels.

Note: Sport Fish Restoration funded only part of the research described for the above species.

Freshwater Fisheries Research

Biologists research and manage fish populations and work to improve fisheries habitat throughout the entire State.  Research projects such as Long-Term Monitoring of Florida's Important Freshwater Sportfisheries and Stock Enhancement of Largemouth Bass are designed to obtain data that can be used by fisheries managers to implement strategies and tactics that maintain or enhance the quality and quantity of freshwater fisheries resources.  Determining trends in sport fish abundance, species composition, mortality, growth, size structure, and habitat utilization gives the agency the tools it needs to provide and promote a diversity of recreational freshwater fishing opportunities in Florida. Additional efforts seek to place this information in geospatial data bases that can be shared with the public to improve their fishing.

Sport Fish Genetics
Genetic research focuses on two major areas: genetic study of natural fish populations and genetic monitoring of hatchery-raised fish at the Fish FWRI's Stock Enhancement Research Facility. Genetic information about natural populations lets managers know if a species should be managed as a single population or if parts of the population should be managed independently. Genetic monitoring allows staff to distinguish released hatchery-raised fish and their offspring from fish in the natural population. This information is used to evaluate the success of the stocking program.

Freshwater Fish Management Areas

The Tenoroc Fish Management Area, near Lakeland, and the Commission-Managed Impoundments in the panhandle are also funded with SFR monies. These programs intensively manage small lakes and ponds by use of aerators, feeders, fertilization, stocking and other techniques that allow them to support upwards to 2,000 hours of fishing pressure per acre per year, versus an average natural lake having about 40-50 hours per acre per year. Key elements include the following: development and maintenance of fish populations for a diverse group of anglers; fishing events to increase awareness and participation by novice anglers; and reliance on cooperators to provide and maintain access and appropriate facilities to encourage family participation.

In addition to these specific programs, Regional Fisheries Management biologists work on all of the major public fishery resources, coordinating research, habitat enhancement, fish stocking, boating access and fish management regulation efforts to ensure quality, safe and sustainable fishing opportunities and to keep Florida the Fishing Capital of the World.  The Black Bass Management Plan provides an excellent example of how fisheries managers work with the public and the tools and resources they use.

Sport Fish Health Monitoring
Staff gather information about fish kills and outbreaks of diseases in Flordia's sport fish. Information is obtained by FWC researchers, as well as through a volunteer network and citizen reports to the Marine Fish Kill Hotline: 1-800-636-0511. Staff also monitor sport fish health at FWRI's Stock Enhancement Research Facility, thus ensuring that hatchery-raised fish are healthy when they are released into the natural environment.

Marine Resource Geographic Information System
The Marine Resource Geographic Information System (MRGIS) is a computer system used to create mapped versions of marine-related data. Staff use MRGIS to respond to requests for data about Florida's recreational marine fisheries. Boating and Angling Guides are created using MRGIS data and offer information about marine resources and boating-access sites for more than 25 coastal regions of Florida. These guides are available free of charge to anglers, boaters, and resource managers at a variety of locations. The guides can be ordered or downloaded

Artificial Reefs
FWC staff coordinate and track the progress of artificial reef projects conducted by coastal governments and qualified non-profit groups.  They are also responsible for monitoring reef materials, reef construction and the long-term stability of each reef. They also perform SCUBA dives to gather data about how and what types of marine life use the artificial habitats. Check out our list of their locations.


Florida Saltwater Angler and Boater Outreach Project
In this project, anglers and boaters are informed of the roles they play in supporting the Sport Fish Restoration Program through angler intercepts at boat ramps, fishing expos, festivals and more. Products describing Sport Fish Restoration-funded projects (such as videos and numerous educational brochures) are produced and distributed free of charge at angling events around the state.

Aquatic Resource Education

Saltwater Aquatic Education
Saltwater fishing clinics for children and women, offered statewide, are designed to inform participants about the marine environment. Kids' Fishing Clinics are a one-day event divided into two segments. The first part of the day is spent learning basic fishing skills such as casting and knot tying, as well as discussing the importance of conserving Florida's marine habitats. The second part of the day is spent practicing these new skills while fishing.  Over 5,000 children participate in the program every year.  Other saltwater aquatic educations programs such as Women’s Fishing Clinics, Field Studies, Florida State Fishing Records, Grand Slam Club and the State Hatchery Outreach Program, provide information regarding sustainable fishing and proper catch and release procedures and are designed to give participants the opportunity to learn about responsible angling and marine conservation in a hands-on environment and inform anglers about Sport Fish Restoration, fisheries enhancement, conservation principles, and their stewardship responsibilities as anglers.

Freshwater Aquatic Education
Freshwater aquatic education programs provide resources for elementary and secondary students to gain understanding of freshwater aquatic ecosystems, fisheries science, angler ethics, and angling skills aimed at promoting responsible life-time participation in sport fishing and resource stewardship. Two approaches are taken: direct training, primarily through the Joe Budd Aquatic Education Center (Gadsden County), and indirectly through teacher training from program staff.

These programs are being expanded to form partnerships for conducting Freshwater Fish Camps. Many programs help parents and children catch their first fish at various fun fishing events. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fishing Camp program goes far beyond by helping young people learn a healthy lifetime sport and the importance of conservation stewardship.

Marine Fisheries Outreach Calendar of Events

Boating-Access Improvements
The FWC oversees Sport Fish Restoration-funded projects to improve boating access throughout the State. FWC uses the funds to improve public marina sites and create new boat ramps by awarding grants to cities, counties, and other governmental entities through the Florida Boating Improvement Program.  Also, SFR funds the construction and maintenance of over 200 boat ramps statewide and supports a new Florida Public Ramp Finder, access over 1,700 public boat ramps!  All of these projects work to improve boating-access opportunities for all of Florida’s marine resource users.  Marine boating-access sites have been restored with Sport Fish Restoration dollars.

FWC Facts:
Otoliths, commonly known as "ear stones," are hard, bone-like structures located directly behind the brain of bony fishes. These structures aid fish in balance and hearing.

Learn More at AskFWC