FWC’s TrophyCatch program receives national award

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch program received the 2016 Aquatic Education Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year award from the Fisheries Administration Section of the American Fisheries Society at the FWC Commission meeting on Nov. 17 in St. Petersburg. This award recognizes outstanding fisheries projects completed with Sport Fish Restoration Program funds.

“I am pleased to present the 2016 Aquatic Education Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year award to the FWC’s TrophyCatch program,” said Ken Kurzawski, president of the AFS Fisheries Administration Section. “TrophyCatch is a leader in fisheries management, research and education, and the AFS is proud to celebrate the importance and effectiveness of this Sport Fish Restoration-sponsored program through the presentation of this award.”

TrophyCatch is a unique, innovative conservation program that partners with the fishing industry to incentivize anglers to participate by submitting photographs and videos of their catches of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier. Angler’s submissions provide FWC scientists with important data on bass populations around the state, inform research projects, and help the FWC evaluate Florida’s valuable freshwater fisheries. Both the TrophyCatch website Website and social media platforms effectively educate anglers about proper handling of large bass for live release and communicate the FWC’s conservation messages.

“The AFS is the top society for fisheries professionals and they do not hand out these awards lightly,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “The programs awarded have to have real depth and scientific substance, and I am so proud to see the TrophyCatch program receive this award for their excellent work exciting anglers and bringing together science and best management practices for the betterment of Florida’s freshwater fisheries.”

The TrophyCatch program recently approved its 5,000th catch, which weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces. The trophy bass was caught on Lake Okeechobee by Scott Seaman II, a first-time TrophyCatch participant.

“I am very impressed with the TrophyCatch program and glad to be able to submit my data to help the FWC manage the resource,” said Seaman. “I am really excited to see the state supporting our fisheries, and I definitely plan to keep submitting my data.”

Tom Champeau, director of FWC’s Freshwater Fisheries Management Division, praised the program’s support from the fishing industry.

“TrophyCatch would not exist without our generous and dedicated conservation partners,” Champeau said. “Bass Pro Shops has been our leading TrophyCatch partner since the beginning, and we are so grateful to all of the Bass Pro Shops associates who help educate the public about bass conservation,” said Champeau.

Ronnie Cheeks, general manager of the Bass Pro Shops in Brandon, attended the Commission meeting and said, “TrophyCatch is a great program that has really excited our anglers.”

“Bass Pro Shops is thrilled to have helped develop and partner with the FWC to help make this program a successful model for wildlife conservation,” said Bass Pro Shops Senior Director of Conservation, Bob Ziehmer. “TrophyCatch actively involves anglers in gathering key data and has provided enhancements in research and education that will help shape the future of fisheries management. Our founder Johnny Morris and all Bass Pro Shops associates are deeply committed to protecting wildlife and habitat so we can continue to inspire generations to enjoy, love and conserve the great outdoors.”

The FWC encourages more anglers to join this “citizen-science” effort to better inform fisheries management and the conservation of Florida’s lakes and rivers. A new TrophyCatch mobile app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices, which allows for the quick submittal of images or videos of trophy-sized largemouth bass without the need to connect to a desktop computer.

For more information about the TrophyCatch program, email Amber Nabors at Amber.Nabors@MyFWC.com.