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Accurate estimates of exploitation are essential to managing an exploited fishery. However, these estimates are often dependent on the area and vulnerable sizes of fish considered in a study. High-reward tagging studies offer a simple and direct approach to estimating exploitation rates at these various scales and in examining how model parameters impact exploitation rate estimates. These methods can ultimately provide a better understanding of the spatial dynamics of exploitation at smaller local and regional scales within a fishery—a measure often needed for more site-attached species, such as the Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus. We used this approach to tag 724 Red Snapper during 2016 in the Alabama Artificial Reef Zone within the northern Gulf of Mexico to estimate recreational exploitation rates in Alabama waters. We fitted a series of tag return models, analyzed using maximum likelihood, to examine how release depth, movement between depth strata, fish length, and the rate at which anglers released fish impacted estimates of exploitation rate under a range of assumed natural and tagging mortality rates. Our model results suggested higher fishing mortality in the shallower depth stratum than in the deep stratum, constant movement rates with release depth, and constant release rates across fish lengths. Exploitation rate for the aggregate tagged population across the entire sample area was estimated at 0.14. Exploitation rates estimated for each depth stratum were 0.20 (shallow stratum:

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This article was published in the journal of Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science Practice by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of the American Fisheries Society.

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