Published on: April 19, 2010
For 30 years, I've had the opportunity, challenge and pleasure of working with some great fisheries biologists and a cadre of supporting scientists, technicians and staff dedicated to conserving Florida's unique fisheries resources while providing quality recreational fishing. Mostly unbeknownst to the angling public, the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, first within the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC) and more recently in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has had a stellar series of division directors guiding the way.
The first trained fisheries biologist, and subsequently the first division director, was Jack Dequine, who was hired in 1943. Jack is still an active member of the Florida Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.
A true Southern gentleman, Jerry Banks, was at the helm when I was hired in 1979. He passed the torch to Smokie Holcomb. Smokie was known for his hands-on knowledge of fisheries and helping pioneer lake restoration work as well as having a compassionate understanding of anglers' needs.
Around 1996, Jerry Shireman took over from Smokie. He brought his experience as leader of the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences program at the University of Florida to state government. In 2000, Ed Moyer, became fisheries director. Among Ed's notable accomplishments was opening of the state-of-the-art Florida Bass Conservation Center. He was here when the residents of Florida overwhelmingly voted to merge the GFC, Marine Fisheries Commission and elements of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) related to marine fisheries into a new constitutionally authorized FWC.
In 2004, the FWC realigned and redistributed the resources and programs that were first brought together when the FWC was created. Part of that initiative resulted in the Division of Fisheries, which previously included its own research, habitat restoration and boating access staff totaling 170 employees reorganizing into a streamlined force of 69 employees focused on direct fisheries management and hatchery production. Other employees were mostly moved into the new Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, the Florida Wildlife Research Institute, or Office of Boating and Waterways. As the first director of the new Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, Darrell Scovell brought a wealth of experience to the new challenges.
Darrell Scovell, Director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, during the past six years worked diligently to develop stakeholder relations.Before acquiring an advanced fisheries degree at Auburn, Darrell had served as an officer in the U.S. Navy. When he was hired by the GFC in 1978, he was initially on the Lake Okeechobee Fisheries Utilization and Management Program where his economic expertise was a plus. That started a 32-year career during which he had major impact on commercial fisheries and aquaculture programs before becoming director.
When April ends, so will Darrell's distinguished FWC career.
"Throughout his career, he has influenced and inspired many of us within the FWC family with his conservation ethic, honesty, and compassion," said executive director Nick Wiley in an e-mail to employees.
Recently, Darrell has paid special attention to two initiatives while balancing and maintaining the Division's other core functions. First, he encouraged expansion of the conservation education model developed at the FWC's Joe Budd Aquatic Education Center, which documented actual stewardship behavioral changes and angler recruitment. His support for the Get Outdoors Florida! Coalition, Florida Youth Conservation Center Network and internal education and outreach programs promises to be a lasting legacy.
Second, he recognized the teamwork necessary to manage the state's three million acres of freshwater fisheries. Internal coordination with research biologists, habitat restoration managers, law enforcement, the new aquatic plant management section (first returned to the FWC in 2009), outreach personnel, boating access planners and regional staffs within FWC are part of the coordination challenges. When you add that DEP is the agency primarily charged with water quality, and various water management districts and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulate water quantity and schedules (which are vital to fisheries conservation), you get an idea of the complexities the division director faces. Recognizing these needs and the importance of getting public support from anglers, fishing-related businesses and waterfront landowners, Darrell initiated an effort to create a Florida Black Bass Management Plan.
Tom Champeau and son Kyle show off a nice bass.
Stepping up to become the new division director is Tom Champeau. Currently regional director for the Southwest Region, Tom began his employment in Florida in 1981, coming from the University of Michigan with a fisheries degree, and served as a fisheries biologist for 28 years. In announcing the appointment, Wiley described Tom as "passionate about the future of freshwater fisheries management in Florida and having many strong relationships with people in this arena."
Tom was critical in initiating the Black Bass Management Plan concept and can be expected to aggressively pursue its completion and implementation.
Tom recently acknowledged his main accomplishments are enjoying 28 great years of marriage, raising their children to be good citizens with an appreciation for nature, and helping make his community a better place.
Professionally, Tom indicated his primary responsibility as division director will be to enable and support staff in efforts to ensure that fish and wildlife resources are protected and managed for sustained benefits for all Floridians. He specifically stated that he looks forward to working with stakeholders and helping build partnerships to make FWC's work more relevant to a wider segment of the population.
"It is a great honor to be entrusted with this responsibility, and I look forward to helping ensure Florida's reputation as the Fishing Capital of the World!" Tom said upon his appointment.
So the time is right for everyone who is interested in Florida freshwater fisheries to provide input and support these efforts. Here are two important opportunities.
First, provide input for the newly proposed Black Bass Management Plan. In Florida, black bass annually provide more than 800,000 anglers with nearly 15 million days of healthy outdoor recreation and generate more than a billion dollars in economic impact. Although the FWC and its predecessor agencies have zealously managed these fish to ensure their survival and sustainable use, it is time to pull together all the loosely connected pieces into one cohesive management plan.
For additional background visit MyFWC.com/Fishing, and select Black Bass Management Plan proposal. Then fill out a survey to provide the FWC with your opinion about how to ensure quality bass fishing in Florida.
We have also has teamed up with partners in the angling industry to create a 5-year freshwater fishing license promotion. A 5-year license costs just $79, plus a convenience fee. For most anglers, that amounts to barely a dollar per fishing trip, or about one quarter per hour, for healthy, relaxing recreation. Long-term licenses are also convenient and lock you in at the current price thus potentially saving you more money. Remember, your entire fishing license fee goes to FWC for conservation. In addition, every paid license (a 5-year license counts for each of the five years it is valid) holder helps recover federal excise taxes you pay on fishing tackle and motor boat fuels to support Sport Fish Restoration and boating access projects in Florida.
As if that isn't enough, if you upgrade now to a 5-year or lifetime freshwater fishing license, you will receive a free bonus package by mail with tackle and accessory samples, magazines and coupons from fishing-related companies. The box of goodies comes in the mail absolutely free of charge and has you covered hook-line-and-sinker, literally.
Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing for details, including the opportunity to see all of the content and to verify the offer is still valid (current expectations are it will last until early June 2010). It's a great deal for you and the future of freshwater fisheries conservation in Florida.
Till next time tight lines and good fishing….
From Staff Writer BASSonline –
BassOnline.com / 888-829-BASS