The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is participating in the FishSmart Red Snapper and Red Drum Conservation Project. This collaborative project encourages anglers to use a science-based, proactive approach to protect the future of fishing. By using “Best Practices” such as descending devices for deep water fish and short leader rigs for red drum mortality rates of released fish can be reduced while enhancing the fishing experience.

This innovative project is an evolution in sportfishing and enhancing anglers’ long-established role as conservationists. Nearly 350 million fish are caught each year by recreational anglers in the South Atlantic with approximately 60 percent of those released. More than two million fish could be saved each year if anglers increased the survival of even one percent of these released fish.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people will be directly participating in the FishSmart project in the South Atlantic region this year. Participants are asked to estimate their catches and the number of fish they release, their techniques and experiences using Best Practices, descending devices and short leader rigs.

As the fall red drum season picks up, anglers are encouraged to actively participate in the red drum conservation aspect of the current initiative.  This effort focuses on promoting the use of short leader rigs when fishing for large red drum. Studies have shown that using short leader rigs with circle hooks can reduce deep hooking and improve chances of survival for released red drum. To be effective, we recommend the following:

  • A fixed weight or sinker clip that is not more than six inches from the circle hook.
  • Sinker heavier than two ounces.  Depending on the tides, heavier weights may be required.
  • A barbless circle hook (a hook with the point directed straight back toward the shank, and with the barb either compressed or removed).
  • It is advisable to add a five-foot leader of heavier 80 – 100 lbs. monofilament or fluorocarbon between the mainline and terminal rig to minimize abrasion and break offs.

The South Atlantic project is coordinated through the FishAmerica Foundation and in collaboration with the following: Yamaha Marine, American Sportfishing Association, Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gray’s Reef Marine Sanctuary Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, North Carolina Marine Fisheries, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

FishSmart was created by anglers, sportfishing companies, and fisheries managers to make fishing better for tomorrow through actions taken today. To learn more about the FishSmart project, visit

FishSmart, for the future of fishing.


Kathy Knowlton, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division

Andrew Loftus, FishSmart coordinator

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