Project Tampa Bay

Redfish Stock Enhancement

In 1999, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory began Project Tampa Bay (PTB), a large scale red drum (redfish; channel bass; spottail; reds) stock enhancement project. The goals of PTB are to develop, test, and demonstrate a responsible and cost-effective approach to stock enhancement for application as a management tool to enhance depleted stocks in a large estuary using red drum as a test species and to increase the number of red drum available to recreational anglers. Guidelines for PTB follow the principles outlined in "A Responsible Approach to Stock Enhancement" authored by Blakenship and Leber, 1995. Objectives of PTB include to evaluate the influences of the release locations, seasons of release, and the size of fish at release on the survival of hatchery-reared red drum into the fishery.

Before the project was implemented, a survey of saltwater license holders identified and prioritized red drum, snook, and seatrout as potential stock enhancement candidates. After a careful examination, red drum were selected as the species of choice (test species). Tampa Bay was selected as the pilot stock enhancement site, with the Alafia River as the primary study area and the Little Manatee River as a secondary release area. These rivers were selected because the majority of red drum captured by FWC monitoring teams in Tampa Bay over the previous ten years were captured in these two river systems.

The staff at the FWC Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF) began raising red drum for PTB in August 1999 using fertilized eggs provided by the Progress Energy Crystal RIver Mariculture Center in Crystal River, FL. Stocking began in the spring of 2000 and continued through 2004. During this time, more than four million juvenile red drum consisting of three size groups (phases) were reared at SERF and released into the two river systems.

Phase I II III
inches 1-1.5 2.4 4.5 5.3-7.3
millimeters 25-45 60-110 130-180
days post-hatch 35-45 150-180 270-300


To assess the influences of release on the hatchery-reared fish survival as well as fish growth and movement several means of fishery assessment were conducted following the 'Responsible Approach" These included an FWC-Fisheries Independent Monitoring Program (seines and trammel nets), FWC-Fisheries Dependent Monitoring Program (biologists interview anglers at ramps and collect red drum samples), FWC and MML Directed Sampling (hook and line), FWC and MML Angler-Based Fin Clip Program (collect tissue samples for DNA analysis), and MML and FWC acoustic tracking studies. 


Angler-Based Redfish Fin Clip Program

Acoustic Tracking of Red Drum in Tampa Bay

Red Drum Quick Facts


*Blankenship, H.L. and K.M. Leber. 1995. A responsible approach to marine stock enhancement. In: Uses and Effects of Cultured Fishes in Aquatic Ecosystems, pp. 67-175 (H.L. Schramm, Jr. and R.G. Piper, eds). American Fisheries Society, Symposium 15, Bethesda, MD. >> read now (PDF)