The American Saltwater Guides Association



The “new” recreational fishing group trying to influence fisheries management on the federal and state levels. Here is their mission statement you can see posted on their webpage:


Promoting Sustainable Business Through Marine Conservation – If you take care of the fish, the fish take care of you.


                                   American Saltwater Guides Association


We are a coalition of forward-thinking guides, small business owners and like-minded anglers who understand the value of keeping fish in the water. We realize that abundance equals opportunity, and that such opportunity is quite a bit more important to the future of fishing than low size limits and full coolers.


We have everything to gain by speaking in a loud, clear and united voice, and expressing the concerns of a legion of conservation-minded guides, businesses and anglers.”


I honestly have not done a whole lot of research into this group yet. I have met some of their members and staff, I have browsed over their website, and I tried to listen to a few of their podcasts. The first line of their mission statement “If you take care of the fish, the fish will take care of you.” really does not excite me to venture into a whole lot more research into the organization if I can continue being honest. 


The reason why?


This group and their affiliates are big promoters of catch and release fishing. This is apparently much better than “low size limits and full coolers”. The American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) also claims to “understand the value of keeping fish in the water.”  and the one thing I actually do believe on their website is the phrase “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by developing such a coalition.”


“Nothing to lose!”


Maybe that has to do with the fact that catch and release fishing is the least regulated fishery with the least amount of data! Guess what? Recreational dead discards are becoming (and in some cases have already become) the dominant removals in many of our fisheries and continues to grow uncontrollably!  One of ASGA ‘s own write ups talk about how striped bass recreational dead discards totaled 48% coastwise in 2017, followed by recreational harvest at 42%, commercial harvest at 8%, and commercial dead discards at 2%.


The latest red drum stock assessment says that recreational dead discards accounted for an average of 37% of the total annual removals during the last ten years while the southern stock annual dead discards averaged 28% of the total removals since 2005. Atlantic red snapper recreational dead discards in 2018 in just Florida was estimated at 904,672 fish! Whereas the Southern Atlantic red snapper recreational annual catch limit was only 29,656 fish that same year!


So yes, the American Saltwater Guides Association’s catch and release guides and anglers have “nothing to lose”! 


 But do not worry, these recreational dead discards are not disregarded. The dead discards are accounted for when scientists and managers are developing fisheries management plans (FMP). These dead discards (more often than not) are paid for by reducing the number of fish everyone is allowed to harvest. Recreational dead discards are eating up fisheries quotas before people who want to harvest fish ever get a chance. 


Have you ever wondered why fishing seasons are growing ever shorter while the minimum size limits continue to increase? Well, when you take that 28%, 37%, and 42% of dead discards out of the total allowable catch (TAC) before fisheries managers allocate fish to the recreational and commercial sectors there are not a whole lot of fish left to harvest!


How is this going to “take care of the fish”?  How is this “keeping LIVE fish in the water”? How is it that the recreational catch and release fishermen get to take an ever-increasing portion out of our allowable catches just to kill and waste our fish stocks?  Where is the accountability? 


Seems to me like the American Saltwater Guides Association is just another elite recreational fishing group blaming fisheries managers and other fishermen for problems their own membership has created. Seems to me that they want reduced bag limits and increased minimum size limits just so they can kill and discard more fish for themselves.


So now that you know a little bit about the “new” recreational fishing group trying to influence our state and federal fisheries managers here are several of their agenda items they are currently pushing.


The American Saltwater Guides Association sent a letter earlier this year to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) requesting them to once again add false albacore (also known as little tunny) as one of their managed species and set quotas. This request has been reviewed by and voted down by both recreational and commercial members of the Mackerel Cobia Advisory Panel but the Council will again review this request at the SAFMC December meeting.


On our state level, during the last NC Marine Fisheries Commissioners (MFC) meeting a member of ASGA’s board of directors, Tom Roller, requested NCDMF update a white paper on false albacore to look at state management. Commissioner Roller stated at this meeting that he wants the NC Division of Marine Fisheries to look at “a commercial trip limit or maybe just a quota” but did not want to recommend a recreational bag limit for fear that “people would start killing their limit”. 


Currently in Georgia, the American Saltwater Guide Association is pushing hard to reduce recreational red drum bag limits, telling fishermen in Georgia they do not need to be harvesting too many red drum. I guess it is better to just let ASGA and their members kill and discard them. 


Be on the lookout. We have another elite recreational fishing group trying to “save” our fish from being harvested and eaten by you just so THEY can kill and discard that same fish after catching them a few times.



Thomas Newman

Fisheries Liaison