Many in attendance during the weigh-in of our most recent event in Edenton, NC may have noticed a NC Wildlife Resource Commission officer checking the weigh bags of anglers with a special device, just before releasing the fish back into Pembroke Creek. That individual was Kevin Dockendorf, a Coastal Research Coordinator for the Division of Inland Fisheries. Next, you may ask, “What was he doing?” Kevin was invited to attend our afternoon weigh-in for this event in an effort to assist the NCWRC with studies pertaining to largemouth bass populations in our coastal regions. During the afternoon weigh-in Kevin was searching for special tags that are used to track the migration of largemouth bass after the fish are caught in a tournament event and released. The summary below describes, in more detail, the reasoning behind Kevin’s presence and the studies associated with his efforts.
Kevin Dockendorf, coastal research coordinator from the Division of Inland Fisheries with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, scanned the largemouth bass following weigh-in with a PIT tag (Passive Integrated Transponder). Kevin was checking for any PIT tagged largemouth bass that may remain at-large from a 2012-2013 NC State University project on largemouth bass movement in coastal rivers. The study was funded through Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration and these monies are available from excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel paid by anglers. THANK YOU for your support! In the study, a total of 85 largemouth bass ranging in size from 9 inches to 23 inches were tagged with both PIT tags and acoustic tags; PIT tags allowed for scanning opportunities in the field or at largemouth bass tournaments and the acoustic tags provided information on fish movement when the fish passed any available receivers in the study area; receivers for the study have since been removed. At the conclusion of the NC State study, there were about 18 of 85 largemouth bass that were still at-large with PIT tags and acoustic tags in their body cavity; acoustic tags, however, could not be detected with the wand Kevin was using on Saturday. PIT tags are activated only when scanned, yet Kevin did not find any PIT tags in any of the largemouth bass weighed in at the Saturday event. Although Kevin did not find any PIT tagged largemouth bass, the results of 110 fish weighed in with the Top 10 teams weighing in 5 fish and the Top 5 teams weighing in an average of 17.83 pounds are encouraging signs that recovery is in progress following Hurricane Irene in fall 2011 and some quality bass are available to bass anglers fishing the tributaries of the Albemarle Sound complex. Fisheries staff will be sampling the area rivers this spring and we look forward to opportunities to update bass clubs with our findings.
Researchers, such as Kevin and the NC State University members, working on projects such as these are helping to ensure that future generation of anglers will continue to have largemouth bass to catch in our coastal areas. As anglers, we owe each of these individuals a well deserved pat on the back and handshake for their efforts. So, the next time you have the chance to thank a NCWRC officer or researcher, do so. Your praise will certainly show that you care about their hard work.