| June 20, 2016
The Lake Worth Lagoon Fishing Challenge, a free month-long data collection project spearheaded by Palm Beach County, the West Palm Beach Fishing Club and the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, has logged more species (31 and counting) than any other single event in the iAngler Tournament platform.
"With two weeks to go, the event will most likely pad those numbers. And that is a good thing for the lagoon," said SGF Chairman Mike Readling. "There are several important story lines being laid out before us here. First, the aspect of anglers contributing data that shows the complexity of a local ecosystem is momumental. And we can contribute by simply entering the free Challenge, going fishing, and logging our catch effort. Second, who would have thought that the Lake Worth Lagoon, much of which has been bandied about as a 'dead zone' for decades, would be the location that produced the biggest variety of catches? The restoration projects there have paid off, and anglers should not only be grateful, but push for more."
Data collected by the Challenge can help make that happen. And anglers can still sign on and participate for free. Prizes, most of which were secured by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, are awarded weekly, so anglers still have a chance to win.
Tom Twyford, Executive Director of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, is particularly happy that the format of the Challenge favors family time on the water.
"The West Palm Beach Fishing Club has a long history of collaborating with the scientific community in an effort to gather important fisheries data. The Lake Worth Lagoon Challenge is an innovative way to encourage local anglers to go fishing for a purpose," Twyford said. "We are especially thrilled to see so many young anglers embrace the challenge. Initiatives like this help foster greater stewardship and appreciation for the Lake Worth Lagoon."
Stewardship is critical, and it is only attainable when local agencies have similar goals. Thankfully, Palm Beach County's Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has been very aggressive when it comes to local habitat restoration. And ERM is very pleased thus far with the data that has rolled in.
"Seeing that anglers are catching a variety of fish in locations where the county and our partners have invested in habitat restoration is exciting. Each catch reported helps us better understand this local treasure that we are working hard to restore and enhance," said Rob Robbins, Director of the County's Environmental Resources Management.
The effects of improved habitats are recognized across the larger angling community, and International Game Fish Assocation (IGFA) Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser has taken notice.
"The IGFA is a big proponent of citizen science projects like the Lake Worth Lagoon Challenge and we're elated to see the participation it is receiving," Schratweiser said.
Specifically, Schratweiser noted the importance of the healthy stocks of variety of species when it comes to maintaining the long term health of our favorite game fish.
"The species diversity we're seeing reported is very encouraging," he said. " Most anglers focus on target species like snook, redfish and trout but in reality, the smaller forage species are why those glamor fish are there in the first place."
Schratweiser continued: "High species diversity is a sign of a healthy marine ecosystem. Without healthy habitat and abundant forage species, you can't have productive recreational fisheries."
So far, four of the top six anglers are in the youth division with Josh Divine leading the pack. Midway through, he had 28 catches logged and verified. But with a wide open format in the Challenge that allows a point for every single fish logged regardless of species, Divine will likely have to put some effort towards making sure he can hold his spot.
If you fish in the Lake Worth Lagoon, you can contribute to the great cause of building a brighter fishing future by participating in the Challenge. Simply follow the registration instructions at the website, download the free app, and get fishing in the lagoon!
While fun is not mandatory, it is likely. So sign up today.