FWC Saltwater Fishing Regulations for 2017
Know or keep a copy of the current regulations with you. Saltwater Regulations publications are issued in January and July. Pick up a copy today at most tackle supply stores or print them online at MyFWC.com/Fishing.
FWC’s column, Gone Coastal: Fishing line and tackle disposal – It’s about more than just monofilament
Gone Coastal is one of many ways that FWC is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. FWC is also available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and welcomes the opportunity to share information through in-person presentations with recreational or commercial fishing organizations. To contact the FWC’s Regulatory Outreach subsection, call 850-487-0554 or email Saltwater@MyFWC.com.
In addition to informative articles, FWC posts videos on a variety of subjects on its YouTube channel, FWC Saltwater Fishing. You can also view these videos by going to MyFWC.com/SaltwaterFishing. Check out new updates weekly on various subjects from how-to videos to artificial reef deployments.
For more information on this quarter’s column, click here.
An Angler’s Guide to Florida’s Marine Resources, the new edition of Fishing Lines is now available
This guide was developed by FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management Outreach and Education Program as an educational tool to provide the public with information about Florida’s marine resources.
This publication includes articles about marine angling, important habitats, saltwater fishes and state efforts to enhance marine resources. Information is also included about fisheries management in Florida, the importance of catch and release, where money comes from and where it goes and that’s just the first half of the guide.
The second half of Fishing Lines has a field guide to help anglers and the public identify some of the many fish species that live in Florida’s marine and estuarine waters. Illustrations and descriptions for 145 species are included in the Identification Section.
Note: The guide is an excellent source of fishing-related information and is recommended reading for anyone interested in Florida’s marine resources.
To download a copy of the guide, click here.
FWC discusses management strategies for goliath grouper
In a discussion on goliath grouper, FWC reviewed the species’ management history, biology, and stock assessments. Stakeholder input on the management of goliath grouper has varied from interest in opening a harvest to continuing with the current harvest prohibition.
FWC is interested in hearing more from the public on the management of this species, including the possibility of a limited harvest. To submit your comments, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.
Mutton snapper management changes effective January 1, 2017
Management changes were approved at FWC’s September 2016 meeting in St. Augustine. Public input from several workshops in February and August 2016 was considered by FWC when making these changes. Starting January 1, 2017, the following changes will be in effect:
- Recreational, commercial, importation and sale minimum size limits will be 18 inches in all state waters.
- Recreational bag limit will be five fish per person within the 10-fish snapper aggregate bag limit in all state waters.
Though mutton snapper is not overfished or undergoing overfishing, the 2015 stock assessment indicated that the population is smaller than previously estimated. Atlantic federal fishery managers recently approved measures that would make Atlantic federal regulations similar to the recent state changes. These changes are intended to prevent harvest from exceeding the planned federal quotas, or number of fish that can be harvested. For more information on these management changes, click here.
The recreational harvest of several grouper species in state and federal waters of the South Atlantic, including Monroe County, closed January 1, 2017
This seasonal closure includes gag, black, red, yellowmouth and yellowfin groupers as well as scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, and graysby. State waters in the Atlantic are from the shoreline out to 3 nautical miles. The harvest of these species of grouper in Atlantic state waters will remain closed through April 30, reopening May 1. The harvest closure was established to ensure the long-term sustainability of Atlantic grouper species. For more information on this species, click here.
The recreational harvest for snook in state and federal waters of the South Atlantic reopened February 1, 2017
The recreational harvest for snook will reopen February 1, 2017, in state and federal waters of the Atlantic, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River.
State and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including Monroe County and Everglades National Park, closed December 1, 2016, and will reopen to harvest March 1, 2017. This seasonal closure is designed to help protect the species during vulnerable times, such as cold weather.
For more information on snook and snook regulations, click here.
New law for lobster harvest aims to deter poachers
An amendment to the Florida Statute pertaining to lobster harvest went into effect on October 1, 2016, giving authorities more latitude in prosecutions for those who harvest undersized spiny lobster. The amendment specifies that each undersized spiny lobster found in a violator’s possession may be charged as a separate offense. FWC hopes this change will encourage lobster harvesters to really pay attention and measure any lobster they harvest from Florida waters.
Measuring devices are required and lobsters harvested while diving must be measured while they are in the water. If its carapace length is not longer than 3 inches, the lobster must be left in the water. Size and bag limits exist to conserve the resource and ensure that lobsters are around for the next generation to enjoy.
The recreational harvest season for spiny lobster in Florida is from August 6 to March 31. For more information, click here.
Hogfish conservation measures and boundaries established
FWC approved several conservation measures that are consistent with federal rules and set a new state management boundary for hogfish at the November meeting in St. Petersburg.
Hogfish is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Florida Keys and east Florida. Federal law requires the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to end overfishing immediately and implement a 10-year rebuilding plan. Because most hogfish off the Keys and east Florida are taken in Florida state waters, consistency with similar regulations pending approval in Atlantic federal waters is necessary to rebuild the stock. The effective date for the state waters changes has not been determined, but once confirmed, a date will be posted on MyFWC.com and will be sent out via an additional press release.
The new state management boundary between the Keys/east Florida stock and Gulf of Mexico stock will be a line due west of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida. Some of the approved conservation changes include:
- lowering the Atlantic recreational daily bag limit from five to one fish per harvester;
- setting an Atlantic recreational harvest season of May 1 through October 31; and
- increasing the Atlantic recreational minimum size limit from 12 to 16 inches fork length.
The size limit increase and recreational season will allow Atlantic hogfish more opportunities to spawn before entering the fishery and, along with a bag limit change, will help rebuild the Keys/east Florida hogfish population to sustainable levels.
For more information on these changes and the new management boundary, click here.
FWC sets new barracuda size limits for south Florida
At the Commission meeting earlier this month in St. Petersburg, FWC approved creating a slot limit of 15 to 36 inches allowing for one fish greater than 36 inches per person or per vessel, whichever is less in some south Florida counties. These changes will go into effect January 1, 2017.
These changes will apply in state and federal waters off Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties only and do not include St. Lucie and Indian River counties.
- Creating a recreational and commercial slot limit of 15 to 36 inches fork length.
- Allowing the harvest of one fish larger than 36 inches per person or vessel per day, whichever is less.
Possession limits off Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties became effective November 1, 2015, to prevent further declines and conserve barracuda in the region.
FWC will continue to monitor barracuda through data collected during FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute underwater surveys, and ongoing recreational and commercial catch data collection. Recreational anglers can report their catches using data-reporting programs like the Snook and Gamefish Foundation’s iAngler app and Angler Action website.
For more information on barracuda and these changes, click here.
The Saltwater Grand Slams Program and two new Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs – the Saltwater Fish Life List and the Saltwater Reel Big Fish – encourage anglers to target a diversity of species, thereby decreasing fishing pressure on any given species as well as expanding fishing experiences for seasoned anglers, cultivating an interest in saltwater fishing and strengthening marine fisheries conservation ethics.
Can you catch them all? Similar to a birding life list, this program allows anglers to track their progress at catching 71 different species of saltwater fish. Anglers who catch at least 10 different Life List species can join the Saltwater Fish Life List Club and receive a certificate of accomplishment, a colorful shirt and be eligible for additional prizes. There are four prize tiers total (10, 30, 50 and 71 fish clubs). Print your Saltwater Fish Life List or request to receive one by mail today at CatchaFloridaMemory.com.
Don’t let that whopper of a fish turn into just a whopper of a story. Celebrate your memorable-sized catches by participating in the Saltwater Reel Big Fish program. This program includes 30 different species in both adult and youth (under 16 years old) categories. Successful participants will receive a certificate of accomplishment and a colorful shirt in recognition of their achievement. Anglers who catch 5, 10, 15 or all 30 Saltwater Reel Big Fish species can also gain recognition and the chance to win prizes by joining the Saltwater Reel Big Fish Club.
The FWC has nine different Saltwater Grand Slams that award anglers for catching three different specified fish species within a 24-hour period, and the categories may surprise and challenge you. From the Inshore Grand Slam consisting of red drum, spotted seatrout and flounder, to the Florida Grand Slam of permit, tarpon and bonefish, these challenges will make you work to increase your fishing skills. The program even includes a Small Fry Grand Slam for anglers 15 and under who catch a pinfish, catfish and grunt. Successful anglers will receive a certificate of accomplishment and a colorful shirt showing the fish from their Grand Slam. There are also three prize tiers that award anglers who catch three, six or all eligible Grand Slams.
Fishing is an important part of the Florida lifestyle as well as its economy. To ensure that this activity doesn’t lead to problems for birds and other wildlife, the FWC wants anglers to know about the potential hazards and sure-fire solutions. FWC warns that monofilament fishing line and fishing hooks can snag and entangle birds, sea turtles and manatees, leading to injury and even death.
For more information on the statewide Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program, click here.