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Sport Fish Restoration in a Fish Tank

You don’t have to be a fishing enthusiast to be interested in The Pier Aquarium’s Counting on Fish and Focus on Fish exhibits. Fish are very important to us. Not only do they add to the natural beauty of our ocean environment, fish are an important economic industry.
Many who live in the Tampa Bay region rely on the abundance of fish to make their living in one way or another. Many who live here do research to keep our fish stocks healthy and abundant. Many of us who live here enjoy fishing and boating activities. Living here would not be the same without out fish.

Counting on Fish tells the story behind the importance of sport and commercial fish, how their existence serves as an economic and scientific driver for the region and state and how research ensures the sustainability and stability of this industry and can lead to the development of new products.

The exhibit features a 350 gallon/1,325 liter tank with a replicated hard bottom, oyster bed and mangrove habitats and fish that support much of our commercial and recreational fisheries: Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis), Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), Mangrove Snapper (Lutjanus griseus), Gulf Flounder (Paralichthys albigutta), sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) and catfish. The display offers an easy way to learn fish identification.

One of the tank inhabitants, Red Drum, is an interesting sport fish. They have a life span of 40+ years and can weigh up to 51 lbs. at an impressive length of 45 inches, which makes it a fun sport fish to land and brag about. Some of our Red Drum might be “missing” the spot on its tail. Spotless tails occasionally occur with fish reproduced through hatchery programs.

The Common Snook has a very distinct lateral line that many people describe as a racing stripe. It’s a fish that has the capability of traveling at blazing speeds. The record for a Florida Snook is 44 lbs. 3 oz. However, most catches are usually much smaller, between 5-8 lbs. Snook cannot tolerate water below 60 degrees and they are euryhaline, which means they can tolerate a wide range of salinities. In fact, Snook will even be found in a completely freshwater environment.

Visitors can point at the Counting on Fish large Smart Pad touch screen to read more than 60 interactive pages that include video links. They can read about the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Sport Fish Restoration Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects that will improve fishing and boating activities around the state and maintain healthy fish population. They can learn and better understand the different regulations for various species, such as size and bag limits.
Child-friendly components include a “Discovery Cube” that has a fish-measuring table, fun, fish ID panels and a bait hooking station. Framed illustrations by nationally-known St. Petersburg wildlife artist Diane Rome Peebles round out the exhibit. Named Artist of the Year by the American Fisheries Society in 1995, Ms. Peebles’ s artwork has appeared on the covers of sport fishing magazines, marine conservation stamps and prints and educational publications produced by several state governments.

Counting on Fish is made possible by grants from Sport Fish Restoration, NOAA Fisheries, Fish Florida Foundations and JMC Communities.

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