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Although catch-and-release fishing tournaments undoubtedly reduce mortality of target species, postrelease mortality and fish stockpiling at release sites remain common concerns related to these tournaments. The impacts of liverelease tournaments on freshwater species have been widely studied. However, research on estuarine sport fishes is lacking even though catch-and-release tournaments targeting these species are prevalent and popular recreational fisheries exist. Therefore, we estimated the post-weigh-in mortality and dispersal of Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus and Spotted Seatrout Cynoscion nebulosus released from the 2016–2018 Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo live-weigh-in categories using acoustic telemetry. To concurrently estimate overall post-weigh-in mortality and dispersal, we used a Bayesian multistate model. Overall Red Drum post-weigh-in mortality (median = 6.12%; posterior credible interval [CrI] = 5.67–9.24%) was lower than overall Spotted Seatrout mortality (median = 30.63%; CrI = 26.74–40.00%). These estimates were within reported catch-and-release mortality ranges; however, they were higher than recent estimates for Spotted Seatrout. Within 1 week postrelease, Spotted Seatrout dispersal estimates (median = 87.03%; CrI = 72.96–95.72%) were higher than Red Drum (median = 55.62%; CrI = 42.75–68.10%) or Micropterus spp. in coastal and inland ecosystems. Long-term stockpiling at the release site was also not present; at the end of our 8-week observation period, median dispersal estimates were 94.41% (CrI = 87.15–98.19%) and 98.54% (CrI = 93.68–99.82%) for Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout, respectively. Red Drum fisheries may benefit most from live-release tournaments given that maximum mortality was <10%, but Spotted Seatrout fisheries may also benefit, especially if considerations are made to further reduce tournament mortality. Although we do not know the ratio of tournament mortality to recreational harvest for these species, live-release tournaments may be able to relieve some harvest pressure on heavily exploited inshore marine fisheries and research validating their usefulness should continue.

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Marine and Environmental Sciences


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

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