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Snook population grows

Almost 13,000 juvenile snook were released last month in the waters around Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The snook, 4-8 inches, were spawned in June and August of 1997 by researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. It is the lab's third and largest snook release.

The project, a joint collaboration between Mote, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, is designed to help supplement the existing snook fishery.

In addition to a coded wire tag, each fish received a red elastomer tag in the right jaw. Anglers who catch a fish bearing this mark should note the fish's size and location and call Mote at (941) 388-4441 or (800) 691-MOTE.

TAG RETURN PAYS: A young female tiger shark is about to make Basil Arend of St. Petersburg $500 richer. Arend, a commercial fisherman and consultant on a 1995 NMFS shark research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, caught one of the sharks he was involved in tagging.

Arend caught the shark in about 80 to 90 feet of water south of the Florida Panhandle on July 21, 1996, and recognized one of Mote's tags on the shark. He and 38 other fishermen returned shark tags that were entered into an annual drawing held by Mote's Center for Shark Research.

When fishermen recapture tagged sharks and notify the lab, researchers such as Dr. Bob Hueter learn valuable information about the biology and movement of sharks.

The tags are orange and yellow plastic streamers placed just below the shark's first dorsal fin. Fishermen should cut off the outer orange part (if the tag already has been cut, return the tag number, leaving the tag in the fish) and send the tag to Mote's Center for Shark Research, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236.

Fishermen who return shark tags will receive a shark tagger's hat, information about the shark and entry into the drawing.

LAST SHARK TOURNAMENT: The 10th Annual Gulf Coast Shark Census Tournament, June 11-14, will be Mote's last. Through the years, the world's only 100 percent catch-and-release tournament for research has given Mote scientists data on more than 5,000 sharks of varying size and species.

More than 1,000 fishermen have participated over the years and helped Mote researchers achieve the scientific objectives of the original tournament design.

Seventy-one anglers participated last year, catching and releasing 404 sharks of nine species. Of those, Mote scientists were able to tag 88 new sharks, bringing the tournament's total number tagged to more than 600.

Two noteworthy catches were a 10-foot hammerhead in lower Tampa Bay and a small blacktip in Terra Ceia Bay. The blacktip, tagged earlier in the year by Mote scientists, brought one angler a $100 reward for the information it provided.

If interested, call Mote for a registration form. The $25 application fee is due before June 8.