A Q&A with Dr. Albrey Arrington of Fish Rules

We sit down with Dr. Albrey Arrington, the newest member of the Fishbrain family, to discuss the groundbreaking Fish Rules App, Fishbrain and all other things fishing.

A Q&A with Dr. Albrey Arrington of Fish Rules

In light of Fishbrain’s recent acquisition of the Fish Rules App, we had a chance to sit down with one of the founders, Dr. Albrey Arrington. The Jupiter, Florida, resident is a SEC football fan having graduated from the University of Florida and Texas A&M and served as professor at the University of Alabama but he’s an even bigger fan of fishing. He has fished on multiple continents for pleasure and scientific research and is a welcome member of the Fishbrain family.

Q: Can you tell us the specifics that led to the development of Fish Rules?

I was offshore fishing and caught the biggest grouper of my life. I thought it was a Warsaw grouper, but wasn’t certain and didn't know their regulations. This was before smartphones, so I jumped on my flip phone and called my agency friends. No one could give me a definitive answer whether I should put the fish on ice, or let it go. I even called FWC’s 1-800 number and they couldn’t help. That is when I realized we needed to improve how fisheries regulations are delivered to anglers.

My friend and Fish Rules co-founder Rick Blalock and I had been debating app ideas and we decided to start working on a fishing regulations app that could display regulations based on your actual location. Every step of app creation was tightly structured around conceptualizing, coding, then testing. One day we were offshore fishing together on my boat and a friend caught a beautiful cobia. Rick was running an app simulator on his laptop testing features and functionality in real-world settings. I dropped the cobia onto the deck and asked Rick if we were allowed to keep it. While Rick was struggling to get the app to load on his laptop, I released the fish overboard. Rick looked at me in complete dismay, “Why did you just let go dinner?!” I responded because the app was too slow. He realized our app had to be lightning fast. The app was conceived and evolved to meet the real-world needs of the angler.

Q: Do these rules and regulations apply all over the country?

Not yet, but bit by bit and with Fishbrain’s help we are getting there.

When we started we were meeting our own needs. We first  included state and federal recreational saltwater water fishing regulations from North Carolina to Texas. When the app started growing we were approached by an NGO to add Bahamas waters and a NOAA scientist to add regulations for New England (Virginia to Maine), then NOAA contacted us to add California saltwater, then regulations for the US Caribbean were added, then we added Hawaii’s salt and freshwater regulations. Most recently, we have begun adding freshwater regulations, first Florida’s, then Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. And, with Fishbrain now behind us we will keep going.

Q: What are some of the most specific and complicated rules that you have run into while fishing?

Cobia is a good example: if you are fishing in Florida state waters (within 3 miles of shore) you are allowed one cobia per person, but if you’re fishing in federal waters you are allowed two per person. Very few people understand differences in regulations between state and federal waters. Fish Rules knows if you are in state or in federal waters and displays the correct regulations. 

The Florida Keys may be the most complex regulations that I commonly encounter. If you are on the east side of US Highway 1 (the main road) you're in Atlantic state waters but if you're on the other side you're in the Gulf of Mexico state waters. So, many fish regulations are different depending on which side of the road you’re fishing on. Curiously, while grouper regulations are different between Atlantic and Gulf waters, all of Monroe County is treated as if it is Atlantic state waters when harvesting grouper. That level of detail is impossible to keep in your head. We developed Fish Rules App to simplify fishing regulations and remove the fear of compliance. Fish Rules App lets you fish without fear.

Q: Are there any particular species that come to mind that show the value of effective fisheries regulations?

Probably one of the coolest success stories is snook. Snook is a revered gamefish in south Florida. The snook slot limit in my hometown is 28-inches, but less than 32-inches. They also have multiple closed seasons. But, these regulations have resulted in a very sustainable fishery that produces copious and quality fish in an area that receives massive fishing pressure. I can take you out any day of the year and we can almost certainly catch snook and if we snorkel we can see thousands. The snook population is so healthy because of sound fisheries regulations that have been effectively communicated.

Another example is hogfish. Recently the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) increased the minimum size limit, decreased the bag limit, and instituted a closed season. Now, when scuba diving, we see more trophy hogfish than ever. These simple examples remind us that managing anglers is important if we want sustainable fisheries.

Q: What interested you in partnering with Fishbrain?

We are excited to help Fishbrain help anglers identify their catch and understand relevant regulations.

I don't think anyone can deny that Fishbrain is the powerhouse fishing app in the app store. And it is very exciting to me to take a product that we are very proud of and we have put blood sweat and tears into and know that the opportunity exists to massively expand the positive impact we are having. I am so excited for Fish Rules App’s features and functionality to be fully integrated into Fishbrain. 

In Fish Rules we utilize citizen science to crowdsource data like sea turtle sightings, red tide, whale sightings and more, to help scientists who can't be everywhere at once. Allowing the Fishbrain community to participate as citizen scientists and document their important observations is very important to advance our scientific understanding and most anglers are proud to help with.

Q: In your own words, why is it so important to understand and abide by fishing regulations?

I grew up fishing and my whole family grew up fishing. To me, fishing is a multi-generational experience. We are truly invested in the idea of sustainability for our kids and their kids and so on. This can only be accomplished by developing and effectively implementing sound fisheries regulations.

Q: What are some of the exotic locales you’ve fished in?

I could talk about so many far away places and so many crazy stories, but perhaps the craziest is when I was conducting research for my PhD. I was studying fish in South America with Dr. Kirk Winemiller, a renowned scientist and biodiversity explorer.

It was my first year at Texas A&M and we were on a trip, funded by Nat Geo, to explore the biodiversity of the region where the Amazon and Orinoco basins connect. One of the side benefits of studying fish is that sometimes you have to go fishing to encounter your research subjects! On one specific day we were studying peacock bass in a tributary of the Rio Negro,a tributary of the Amazon. We had harvested many peacock bass and processed them for various samples, eg, length, weight, stomach contents, otoliths, tissues for DNA and stable isotope analysis. At the end of the day we had all these delicious fish - more than we could eat. So, we traveled to a Yanomami Indian village and I gave every fish we had to the people in that village.

It was an amazing life experience and I don't think it will ever be topped. The fishing was amazing. Peacock bass are voracious predators and great fighters. As scientists we loved gathering the samples and cataloging the data. Then to close the day, handing all those fish out knowing the people were going to put those fish to good use, I will never forget that day.

Q: What’s your all time favorite species?

Mahi Mahi hands down. They’re beautiful, acrobatic, sustainable, and delicious. What more could you ask for in a fish.

Q: Is there anywhere, or any fish on your bucket list?

Absolutely. I’ve never been to Alaska and I would love to go. If I could catch one species, I think I would want to catch a halibut.

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