This is primarily toward my fellow kayak fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay area.
I usually agree with the idea that we should follow the regs and I will keep my limit of average sized fish. However, those regs were created for the masses which include power boats (who have access to a lot more water). Kayaks have a limited number of places to go to find these quality fish, so we as a conscious community should think about the consequences.
If you want to keep this awesome, kayak accessible, super hard fighting, trophy fishery around for many years to come, you should consider not keeping multiple citation size fish.
I say citation size fish because, the bigger the fish, the more eggs/sperm they produce. Plus, they must have good genes to fight off disease and/or escape predators. Not to mention the time it takes for them to get that big (20-30 years). If we dramatically diminish the population of the citation size fish in our small kayakable area, it will be a LONG time before we get them back.
Also, through the tagging program, they found out that sheepshead (and togs) have been known to stay on the same structure for long periods of time. So the more of us that catch them (and tell others about how and where to catch them), and keep them, the less there will be, obviously. With more and more of us kayakers targeting them, the rate at which they will be caught will increase exponentially.
Like I said earlier, I will keep my limit of average size fish, especially if there seems to be enough of them going around. And it's not expected to throw back your first ever citation either. I'd have a really hard time with that. But I hope all kayak fishermen will take this into consideration and not keep multiple citation fish.
I know I am probably the most guilty of having kept them in the past.
I hope this all makes sense and I did not offend anyone. I know there are some of you that don't believe in conservation. To each their own.
I really enjoy posting my fishing reports (as I'm sure Kevin enjoys posting his, too) because I believe part of the fun comes from sharing the experiences and I love seeing other people's reports as well. I have been lucky enough to learn from the veterans of the sport and it is only fair to have enough respect to consider their beliefs toward conservation, too.
Here's a few quotes from the Center for Quantitative Fisheries Ecology ( http://www.mrc.state.va.us/vsrfdf/pdf/0607-05App_E.pdf )
"Recreational catch of sheepshead in Virginia, estimated by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS 2007), increased from 1,583 to 20,319 fish from 1999 to 2005. Although sheepshead is not a major fishery in Chesapeake Bay, this increase has raised concerns about the population status of this species as the fishery develops."
"Sheepshead in Chesapeake Bay seem to be a near-virgin stock with many old, large fish and without significant fishing mortality. If a trophy-recreational fishery is to be maintained then exploitation must be carefully monitored as such stocks deplete quickly"