It’s April, and that means the still-cool waters of the Chesapeake region are coming alive with crabbers and anglers. But there’s no rockfishing for more than a month, so what to fish?
Coastal Coservation Association (CCA) Maryland is ready with an answer: invasive species. On April 1, CCA Maryland and Yamaha Rightwaters launched the second year of The Great Chesapeake Invasives Count, an information-gathering effort that puts anglers to work as citizen scientists as they fish.
Using the iAngler Tournament smartphone app, you can report catches of Northern snakhead, blue catfish, and flathead catfish—all nonnative species that fishery managers are watching carefully to prevent damage they may cause to the native species they eat or compete with for food.
Invasive species can cause ecological or economic harm in a new environment, including extinctions of native plants and animals and altered habitat.
Anglers’ catch reports from April to October will provide important data about the invasive fish to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other fishery managers. If that isn’t encouragement enough, those who report catches each month will be entered to win monthly prizes.
CCA Maryland says snakeheads, especially, are “big, aggressive, strong, and delicious, making them a prime species for sport fishing.” Anglers who catch snakeheads and flathead or blue cats should measure the fish’s length (along with a photo against a ruler) and weight as well as note its stomach contents and the weight of them. The Great Invasives Count also asks for specific location of the catch. That information won’t be shared with other anglers, only with fishery biologists to help them understand the population dynamics of the species.
CCA Maryland hopes the information gathered by angler-citizen scientists may be used to build an understanding of these species. In the program’s first year, 92 anglers logged 198 catches, and organizers already have dozens of anglers registered this year.
“Anglers are uniquely situated with a front row seat to what is happening throughout the Chesapeake watershed. Many are concerned about the impact these invasive fish are having or will have to native species in the future,” says CCA Maryland Executive Director David Sikorksi.
The conservation group and its partners believe it’s the role of anglers to be stewards of these resources for today and for the future.
“Unfortunately, nearly every body of water in our great nation is suffering the damage and loss of habitat because of invasive species. Yamaha Rightwaters is committed to stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species and is pleased to join CCA Maryland and the Angler Action Foundation in this innovative approach to fighting the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” says John O’Keefe, Yamaha Outboard’s Senior Specialist- Government Relations.
You can register by visiting The Great Chesapeake Invasives Count event page at iAngler, and get more information at the event website.
-Meg Walburn Viviano