Research meets recreation at Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo

Research meets recreation at Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - While most people are enjoying the rides, food and prize catches at the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, there's also science happening. 

A recreation research partnership saves research scientists a lot of money, and a lot of time. Donnie Armes, one of the rodeo directors, says it's a far cry from the way tournaments were years ago.

"You'd look, the fish would be piled up. Lot of them went to waste," Armes said. "Now days, we have five or six different universities, organizations come through."

As a former Department of Marine Resources enforcement officer, Armes is fine with research that could lead to regulations.

"They take all kind of samples," Armes said. "It's like a smorgasbord for the biologists. It's a lot of fish they do not get a chance to take a look at."

Alabama researchers are testing red drum in collaboration with Gulf Coast Research Lab for possible bacteria that could affect humans. So far, all are healthy.

"This rodeo provides us with the opportunity to sample a lot of different fish at one time," said Michael Sandel, assistant professor at the University of West Alabama. "To go out to collect as many samples as we get here today would probably take us three to four weeks in the field."

The research sampling will be shared with other institutions like the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

"We are able to use the fish that come in that the fishermen catch and get scientific data: length, weight, the bones. We can tell the age of a species," said Melissa Scallan, DMR spokesperson. "So, it gives us a lot of information when they're catching the fish and they bring it right here to us."

The research is easier, and, in some cases, more fun.

"It's a fun time," Sandel said. "I mean it's the most fun sampling. My students get spoiled when they get to go do this type of work with me. Most of the time it's really hot around the field, but this is the vacation sampling for sure."

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.