Big Reds Tournament aims to rebuild Florida fish populations

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Anglers and fishing guides are invited to enter the Big Reds Tournament in the Indian River Lagoon on Saturday, November 13, from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  The event will establish and maintain East Coast Redfish broodstock at Florida Institute of Technology’s Vero Beach Marine Laboratory (VBML).

The goal is to produce millions of redfish fingerlings to help restore redfish populations in east coast habitats. Florida Tech is conducting this effort in partnership with the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative, which aims to replenish fisheries populations through the efforts of a network of hatcheries around the state. Redfish are the first target. Snook, seatrout, snapper and other species will be brought into the program in the coming years.

In the Big Reds tournament, anglers will be provided with Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) waivers of current size limits so they can capture the Big Reds for use as broodstock. Chase boats in the tournament fishing areas near Sebastian Inlet and the Pineda/520 Causeways will pick up the fish and place them in onboard live wells or holding nets and transport them to the culture facilities in Vero Beach.

There will be a single Longest Fish Award for Redfish for an eligible fish more than 40‐inches long. There will also be the Cumulative Brood Stock Length Award and Individual Brood Stock Awards. Anglers will also get posters of the “genetic fingerprints” of their fish and information about how the offspring of their fish contribute to the Indian River Lagoon populations.

The entry fee is $1,250 per angler, with two anglers and one guide per boat. The tournament website,, has registration forms. All funds raised by this tournament will go toward maintaining the broodstock and the fingerlings that will be produced in late summer 2011.

The Anglers Gala, to be held Friday, Nov. 12, 6‐8 p.m. at the VBML, is mandatory for the guide and at least one team member on the guide’s boat. Attendance is necessary to pick up the special permit and banner for catching over‐slot‐limit redfish, to review fish handling techniques and to become familiar with the tournament format and guidelines. Dinner, beer and wine will be served. Anglers’ family members are welcome to attend if they are listed on the tournament registration form.

The Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Tech and Hubbs Sea World Research Institute are organizing the tournament. Florida Tech and the Florida Beer Co. are the sponsors of the Big Reds Tournament and the Florida Tech Office for Advancement is sponsoring the Anglers Gala.

Information or registration:  Call Michelle Verkooy at 321 674 6852 or visit


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