Anglers are a diverse group: they come from a wide range of backgrounds, they’re interested in different fishing techniques, and they each bring a unique set of experiences to the sport. According to Rick Blalock, there might be only one thing all anglers have in common: they’ve got to follow fishing rules.
These regulations help prevent overfishing, ensuring that there is enough fishing to go around. The problem is that these rules vary by state and by season. And ignorance is most certainly not bliss, since violating these rules can result in fines – and even jail time.
“Rules and regulations are really, really complicated and change all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or you’re an expert. People just don’t know what they are,” said Blalock.
He told Refresh Miami that the goal was to develop a tech solution to replace the antiquated physical charts that anglers use to try to figure out the regulations relevant to their catch.
Together with co-founder Albrey Arrington (pictured at top of post), Blalock created the Fish Rules app. It’s a one-stop-shop right on your smartphone for everything you would need to know about fishing regulations. The app works for saltwater fishing from Maine to Texas, California, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. Freshwater anglers can use Fish Rules in Florida, Texas, and Alabama.
When you catch a fish, you can search the app to determine what you caught, and what the regulations are. “Fish Rules helps an angler figure out if they can keep a fish or not within seconds,” said Blalock.
Recreational fishing is big business in South Florida. Blalock noted that fishing brings in more revenue to the Sunshine State than other major sectors of the economy including the space industry, the cattle industry, and the citrus industry. Tens of millions of people fish in Florida every year, according to the Census Bureau. “In Florida, it’s really important that we get [regulations] right because if [a species] disappears, it’s not good for the economy, for jobs, or obviously for the ecosystem.”
Fishing Rules also has partnerships with local and state municipalities such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. They like the app because it makes it easier to share information about regulations with fishermen.
“Governments, non-profits, and anglers have a shared problem: regulations, fisheries management, and sustainability. But sometimes they look at it like they’re at odds with each other. It just makes sense for us to help bridge that gap,” said Blalock.
While the app is free to download, users can pay for premium features such as maps that detail artificial reef locations. Fish Rules also sells products to government agencies and nonprofits, such as a regulation management platform and citizen science tools.
Blalock is a veteran technologist, having worked for more than a decade in Silicon Valley startups and at IBM. Fishing Rules was initially a side project, but he went full time in December 2020, when the startup gained more traction with consumers and government agencies.
Fishing Rules now has just under 600,000 users, 200,000 of which are active each month. That’s a 22% jump from last year’s figures just in the first half of this year. In 2020, Fish Rules’ user base grew 40% from the previous year.
Blalock said that he and Arrington plan to continue developing the platform to include additional premium features and more freshwater zones where the app can be used. The Fish Rules team also plans to double down on their promotion of the app as a citizen science platform, providing valuable data around fishing in Florida and beyond.
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