2008 Red Drum Stock Assessment

This article provides a stock assessment of the status of Red Drum through 2007.

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An assessment of the status of red
drum in Florida waters through 2007

Michael D. Murphy and Joseph Munyandorero
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
100 Eighth Avenue, SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5020
April 17, 2009

Executive Summary

This assessment report covers the red drum fisheries found along the Atlantic and gulf coasts of Florida. Red drum population dynamics are described for the period 1982-2007 utilizing all available information on catch, effort, relative abundance, and age composition.

Annual commercial landings of red drum in Florida declined sharply after 1984 in response to increased regulations and dropped to zero when the sale of native red drum was outlawed after 1988. The total recreational harvest also declined sharply after 1984 reaching a minima on both coasts in 1988 when the fishery was closed to all harvest. Since 1988 there has been a general increase in the total kill (harvest and release mortality) of red drum on both coasts. After an initial increase to about 0.5 million fish on the gulf coast and 0.1 million fish on the Atlantic coast by 1992, the total kill remained relatively stable through the rest of the 1990's before an increase beginning in the early 2000's. The 2007 statewide total kill was nearly 0.8 million fish.

The estimated numbers of fishing trips made by anglers fishing for red drum has increased markedly since 1999 on both coasts. After the 1990's when fishing effort was variable but showed little increase (averaging 1.1 million single-angler trips on the gulf coast and 0.6 million single-angler trips on the Atlantic coast) fishing effort increased rapidly reaching about 2.0 million trips taken on each coast in 2007.

Overall fishing mortality rate estimates for red drum in Florida declined after 1984. On both coasts, average fishing mortality estimates were lowest in 1988, 0.06 yr-1 and 0.02 yr-1 on the gulf and Atlantic coasts, respectively, during a year-long moratorium on harvest. Since then average fishing mortalities have rebounded slowly but consistently reaching to near 0.2 yr-1 on the gulf coast and 0.15 yr-1 on the Atlantic coast by 2005-2007.

Estimates of age-0 red drum abundance showed variability but no overall trend through 2002 on the gulf coast and through 1998 on the Atlantic coast. After this, recruitment increased sharply in 2003 on the gulf coast and remained at elevated levels until an equally sharp drop occurred in 2006. On the Atlantic coast, recruitment also increased sharply between 2002 and 2004 before declining somewhat thereafter.

Abundance of red drum showed a sharp increase after 1986, likely in response to reduced fishing mortalities. Abundances of age 1-4 red drum in estuarine waters increased from roughly 0.30 million fish on each coast in 1985 to 2.4 million on the gulf coast in 1992 and 1.0 million fish on the Atlantic coast in 1991. Abundance of these age groups declined slowly during the rest of the 1990's then increased beginning in the early 2000's reaching highs of 2.7 and 1.3 million fish in 2007. Estimates of the abundance of older-aged red drum showed increases after about 1989, in response to the increased numbers of fish entering this age-segment of the population.

Estimates for year-class-specific escapement rates in 2007 exceeded the Commission's target of 30% for both the gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. On the gulf coast, the estimate for 2007 was 31%, down from the 2004-2006 average of 44%, partly as a result of the high fishing mortality rates encountered in 2005. On the Atlantic coast, the estimated 2007 escapement was nearly 50% (2004-2006 average: 43%). Projections of the future escapement indicated that at the current rate of increase in total kill, escapement could fall below 30% on the gulf coast in 2011 but should remain above 30% through at least 2012 on the Atlantic coast.

FWC Facts:
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