Red Drum Fingerlings Pilot Project Details
LDWF’s most recent stock assessment estimated there are approximately 4.5 million Red Drum in the state’s coastal waters. Because of declines in recruitment and escapement, around 1.5 million fingerlings (8 inches or larger) would need to be stocked to correct that decline in recruitment.
Recruitment is the number of juvenile Red Drum that survive to enter the fishery. The juveniles were spawned and enter the marsh as young of the year (i.e. recruit from being spawned offshore into the interior marsh to grow out). The long term-mean recruitment is approximately 2.5 million fish (4 months to 16 months old). The current recruitment estimate is approximately 1 million fish.
If stocked fish were grown out to around 7-8 inches (around 6 months old), LDWF would need to stock 1.5 million fish to reach the long term-mean recruitment. If fish were stocked at a smaller size (2-3 inch fingerlings), LDWF would need to stock more than the 1.5 million fish to account for the additional natural mortality while they grow out to 7-8 inches.
Current scientific literature from stocking programs elsewhere states the percent of recaptures equals only about 1.9%, but by confining the pilot study to just one basin it will help LDWF scientists to better track that recapture rate through genetic tagging.
The assessment period will begin once the first round of stocking takes place after the young of the year Red Drum are reared in the hatchery. Then LDWF will start to pick up those young of the year in its fishery independent sampling. However, LDWF won’t see those young of the year from the initial stocking through fishery dependent angler harvested sampling until they enter the fishery at around two years old.