Each year the Fisheries Administration Section of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) recognizes outstanding fisheries projects completed with Sport Fish Restoration funds.  These awards are intended to both highlight the importance and effectiveness of the Sport Fish Restoration program and recognize excellence in fisheries management, research, and education. Recipient History

The Sport Fish Restoration Program also known as the Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux Program, after its primary Congressional sponsors, is funded by an excise tax collected on fishing tackle, boats and motorboat fuel. The program revenues are then returned to the states to enhance fisheries management and boating programs.

2017 Sport Fishery Development and Management Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife – Reclamation and Restoration of Big Reed Pond — Recovery of an Endemic Arctic Charr, Salvelinus alpinus, Population in Maine

A genetically unique Arctic charr population in Big Reed Pond, one of Maine’s 12 native charr waters, was on the brink of extirpation due to illegally introduced rainbow smelt. Routine sampling was scheduled at Big Reed Pond to elucidate any long-term impacts on the charr population. A recovery plan was implemented to (1) capture and relocate the remaining charr, (1A) successfully propagate wild charr in an artificial environment, (2) remove the competing invasive smelt, and then (3) restore the charr back to Big Reed Pond. The charr population had declined so dramatically that only 14 individuals were captured and moved to the hatchery. These 14 fish became the broodstock for the captive population that would eventually be released into Big Reed Pond once invasive smelt were eliminated. 1,075 charr propagated from the original 14 charr broodstock were flown to and released in Big Reed Pond. All remaining hatchery-reared charr were released into Big Reed Pond between 2012 and 2014. All hatchery charr were marked with an adipose clip for field identification. No smelt have been sampled since the chemical treatment in 2010.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has committed substantial resources to conserve and protect these unique, rare fish. Arctic charr populations in Maine are managed to protect an extremely rare resource, preserve genetic integrity, and to provide a unique fishing opportunity for recreational anglers.

2017 Aquatic Education Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year

Missouri Department of Conservation – Discover Nature – Fishing Angler Education Program

Discover Nature –Fishing (DNF), a free fishing program, is an evolution of Missouri’s urban fishing and other angler education programs.  It is in its fourth year and continues to grow.  Offered statewide at public areas, DNF provides an instructors guide and a consistent teaching method used by all staff and the 344 trained volunteers.  Partnering schools and youth groups use DNF and it is also included in many schools as part of their teaching curriculum. The Salvation Army Outdoors Program has adopted DNF as it fishing education program to be used nationally at its facilities. To date almost 6,000 individuals have participated in the family DNF classes.

2017 Research and Surveys Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year (two recipients this year)

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) – Bathymetric Mapping of Kansas Reservoirs – F-30-R-21

KDWPT fisheries division personnel used commercially-available sonar equipment and open-source statistical and GIS software to collect data and create bathymetric maps with depth contours and locations of habitat enhancements on popular Kansas impoundments. These maps were provided to the public via a KDWPT press release and a dedicated page on the KDWPT website. Two weeks after release to the public, approximately 5,500 bathymetric map downloads were completed from the KDWPT website, making the maps some of the most popular electronic items available from KDWPT. Through one month, downloads numbered approximately 8,000. Currently, the post publicizing the bathymetric mapping program was the most “liked” post of the year on the Department’s Facebook page. Scientists from multiple agencies use these data for targeted fisheries management activities aimed at improving sportfish populations and fishing access.

Water volume estimates were calculated for use in a collaborative project with Kansas State University examining impacts of precise rotenone applications to selectively remove Gizzard Shad from Kansas impoundments. Bathymetric data have been used in the planning for the drawdown, renovation, and dam repair at Woodson State Fishing Lake after the dam was damaged by a flood in 2016 and at Miami State Fishing Lake to apply precise amounts of herbicide to successfully treat nuisance Curly-leaf Pondweed around popular fishing access points.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department – Evaluation of Wild Brook Trout Populations in Vermont Streams (Grant F-36 R-18: Inland Waters Fisheries and Habitat Management, Study Title: Salmonid Inventory and Monitoring).

Native salmonids have been in decline across much of the US for more than a century. Robust populations of Brook Trout occur in a small subset of their former (US) range and, based on anecdotal accounts, migratory life history forms (i.e., adfluvial, anadromous, fluvial) are gone from most regions (e.g., Hudy et al. 2008). Rich Kirn replicated a 1950s SFR-funded electrofishing survey to determine whether Brook Trout have increased, decreased, or remained stable across Vermont. Using notes and maps from the 1950s surveys, Kirn and colleagues located 150 different sites (200-400 ft reaches), encompassing 138 different streams and 17 major watersheds in Vermont, and electrofished them using the same methods employed by MacMartin decades earlier. Thereafter, the density (fish/mi) of age-0, age-1, and age-2+ fish was computed for each stream and the distribution of density values was compared between the two time periods. Additionally, comparisons were made to determine whether (a) Brook Trout densities differed in the presence and absence of non-native salmonids and (b) the prevalence of non-native trout across sites differed between the two periods.

Surveyed streams appear to support higher densities of young-of-year Brook Trout today compared to the 1950s. This suggests that reproductive success (i.e., egg-to-fry survival) or fry rearing conditions have generally improved since the 1950s. The abundance of age-1+ Brook Trout has remained stable over the last several decades. The impacts of non-native trout on Brook Trout have been negligible to nonexistent in these streams. In fact, non-native trout were found in two thirds as many sites as they formerly occupied, and Brook Trout densities were similar in the presence and absence of non-native salmonids. These findings show that Brook Trout populations are robust and secure in many Vermont streams, which is a stark contrast to the situation in the central/southern portion of its range.