MyFishCount Recreational Angler Reporting Project Transitions to a New Home [Fall 2020]

[Fall 2020 South Atlantic Update Newsletter]

The electronic reporting pilot project MyFishCount will take another step in its development in December 2020 as it transitions operations to the Angler Action Foundation. The pilot project, now in its third year, allows recreational anglers in the South Atlantic region to submit information about their fishing trips and catches. The project consists of a website and mobile app co-created by the Angler Action Foundation and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The pilot project, initially funded by NOAA Fisheries, is designed to assess the effectiveness of using an electronic platform to collect information from recreational anglers. The information may be used to supplement existing monitoring efforts and eventually improve the quality of recreational fisheries data.

“We’re excited about this transition and want to welcome MyFishCount app users to the Angler Action Foundation” said Brett Fitzgerald, executive director of the Angler Action Foundation. “Other than a slight logo modification, MyFishCount app users shouldn’t notice any changes in the appearance or performance of the app or website,” explained Fitzgerald. The partnership between Angler Action Foundation and the Council has allowed managers to be involved in the pilot project and guide development to address specific data needs. Information reported by recreational anglers through MyFishCount is added to the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP) database, helping to maintain consistency with other data sources used for management purposes. “The Angler Action Foundation is committed to ensuring that fisheries data collected through MyFishCount are used to improve management of recreational fisheries,” said Fitzgerald.

The MyFishCount mobile app allows fishermen to maintain a personal logbook of their fishing activities while providing information on fish kept, fish released and other trip details helpful in improving recreational data collection.

MyFishCount was initially launched in late fall 2017 when NOAA Fisheries announced that a limited Red Snapper season would be allowed off the South Atlantic coast for the first time in three years. The recreational fishery would open the first two weekends in November, offering a window to test the newly developed MyFishCount pilot reporting program. The launch was a bit rushed, with anglers reporting through the web portal (the mobile app was still under development) but considered a success. In addition to collecting data on fish that were caught, reports submitted through MyFishCount were also used to help verify canceled fishing trips due to poor weather conditions. Information collected through MyFishCount was helpful in NOAA Fisheries’ decision to open the recreational fishery again the following month for an additional three days.

MyFishCount has grown since that initial focus on the Red Snapper fishery, expanding the number of species that can be reported and allowing anglers to report whether they are fishing offshore, nearshore or even in freshwater and spans the entirety of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. “This was truly a pilot project with users playing a major role in guiding improvements in the mobile app,” explained BeBe Dalton Harrison, Outreach Coordinator for MyFishCount. “For example, the addition of a Quick Log feature allows anglers to enter a larger number of catches of the same species quickly when the bite is on. We’ve also improved the app over time through additional features such as the weather function which provides real-time access to the marine forecast, tides, moon phases, and more.” The app also provides users the opportunity to keep a detailed fishing log, including photos, available only through their MyFishCount personal account.

MyFishCount Outreach Coordinator BeBe Dalton Harrison joined famed Saltwater Sportsman Editor and angling authority George Poveromo during his 2020 Saltwater Sportsman Seminar Series to promote the MyFishCount program. Poveromo has been a strong supporter of MyFishCount, offering a promotional video to encourage anglers to join!

As the MyFishCount outreach coordinator, Harrison has been instrumental in the success of the pilot project, promoting MyFishCount through social media and at in-person events such as ICAST (the world’s largest sportfishing trade show), George Poveromo’s Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series, and other venues. The program has gained support from the American Sportfishing Association and companies such as Plano, Berkley, and Huk have provided products for incentives through the program’s monthly newsletter and social media. Harrison has also worked closely with Brett Fitzgerald to ensure a smooth transition of the program to the Angler Action Foundation.

“The heart of MyFishCount is the recreational anglers that continue to log their fishing trips and participate in the program,” said Harrison. “MyFishCount gives recreational anglers a voice in fisheries management”. She also noted one of the key components to the success of the pilot program has been the willingness of the Angler Action Foundation to seek input from fishery managers from the very beginning of the project. “This will continue to be a learning process and we encourage recreational anglers to get involved and make their catch count in fisheries management. Download the app and participate because MyFishCount and so do yours.”

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