Gulf Coast Research Lab partners with fishermen for striped bass tagging project

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Gulf Coast Research Lab needs a few good fishermen.

Scientists are asking anglers to help "tag and release" striped bass in area waters. It's the latest research project in a nearly 40 year old fish restoration program.

Researcher Jay Dieterich is hunting striped bass. He's uses a "hydro phone", an underwater listening device that picks up signals from acoustic tags implanted in a fish's belly.

Near the mouth of the Tchoutacabouffa River, the beeping signals success.

"You can still hear the fish right now. My hyrdo phone is pointing in that direction and it's softer. As I rotate it around, right about here I think it's the loudest," said Dieterich, a USM graduate assistant at the Gulf Coast Research Lab.

Several stationary receivers attached to buoys also record movements of the tagged, striped bass.

"As the fish moves by with one of these tags, it records the tag number and the time and date," he explains.

What researchers need now are more striped bass. And that's where fishermen can help.

"We're asking local anglers to come out and assist me and other scientists to collect striped bass so we can implant acoustic tags and track and relocate striped bass," he said.

So called "stripers" are a popular game fish. Those caught for science sake will undergo a brief surgery to implant the acoustic tag.

Once inside the fish, the resulting data will help researchers better understand movements and survival.

"We're actually releasing fish into the system and the effort of tracking these fish is really to get a better idea about how we can get more of those fish to survive and more of those fish to live so we can get the population restored," said Dr. Richard Fulford, a fisheries professor at the research lab.

The Gulf Coast Research Lab has been studying striped bass for decades. The program dates back to 1969. Unfortunately, it was virtually wiped out three years ago by Hurricane Katrina.

The program is now back, allowing researchers to continue the ongoing work of helping restore a popular game fish.

The research team needs fishermen Saturday morning. If you're interested in trying to catch "striped bass" to be tagged and released, you can meet at the Popps Ferry boat ramp.

Scientists will be registering fishermen from six until nine Saturday morning.