Action: Recreational red snapper season dates have changed in Gulf state and federal waters
Information: The U.S. Department of Commerce recently expanded the recreational red snapper season for private anglers fishing in Gulf federal waters by 39-days. The FWC also set a similar recreational red snapper season in state waters, trading state days for federal days.
The state recreational and federal private recreational red snapper seasons will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays June 16 through Sept. 4, as well as Monday and Tuesday July 3 and 4, and Monday Sept. 4.
In Gulf state waters, this change applies to all recreational anglers, including those fishing from for-hire vessels.
In Gulf federal waters, the season change only applies to anglers fishing on private recreational vessels. Federally permitted for-hire vessels have their own federal waters season open through July 19.
In Florida Gulf state waters, the season will be closed Mondays through Thursdays through Sept. 4 with the exception of July 3, 4 and Sept. 4, and the season will not open in the fall.
Information: The FWC Commission will listen to public testimony on and discuss several marine fisheries management items at the July 10-11 meeting in Orlando. Commission meetings are open to the public.
Potential regulation changes (final decisions on these topics discussed July 11 may be made at this meeting):
Gag grouper: Proposed changes to open the recreational harvest of gag grouper in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. This action would add additional dates to the current April 1 through June 30 season for these four counties. Gulf state waters outside of that area (excluding Monroe County) and all Gulf federal waters are open June 1 through Dec. 31. A proposed change to make the commercial minimum size limit for gag grouper consistent with recent changes in federal waters will also be considered.
Gray triggerfish: Proposed changes to make regulations in Gulf state waters similar to recent changes in Gulf federal waters and to consider a 2017 limited fall season. Potential changes include increasing the recreational size limit from 14 to 15 inches fork length in Gulf state waters, decreasing the recreational bag limit from two to one fish per person per day in Gulf state waters, and creating a closed season from Jan. 1 through the end of February, while maintaining the June 1 through July 31 closed season that is already in place.
Draft regulation changes (these items will be discussed July 10 and if approved, will be brought back to a future meeting for final decision):
Sheepshead and Tripletail: Potential draft changes for statewide management of these two species includes extending management for sheepshead and tripletail into federal waters, reducing the daily recreational bag limit for sheepshead from 15 to five, creating a new commercial daily trip limit for sheepshead of 200 per person outside of peak spawning season, creating a 50 per person commercial trip limit and recreational bag limit during peak spawning months of March and April, increasing the minimum size limit for tripletail from 15 to 18 inches, and reducing the tripletail daily commercial trip limit to two fish per person.
Cobia: Potential draft changes to create a Gulf/Atlantic cobia management boundary defining all waters north of the Monroe-Collier county line as Gulf state waters, increase the minimum size limit in Gulf state waters from 33 inches to 38 inches fork length, reduce the commercial trip limit from two to one fish per person in Gulf state waters, and reduce the recreational and commercial vessel limit to two per vessel per day in Gulf state waters.
Federal fishery Congressional (July 10) and management (July 11) updates
Action: More areas open to recreational harvest starting July 1
Information: The recreational season for bay scallops will be open in state waters from the western-most point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Hernando-Pasco county line starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close Sept. 10.
The scallop season for St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.
All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.
Information: Spiny lobster will be open to recreational harvest in state waters July 26 and 27 for the sport season and will open for regular recreational and commercial harvest Aug. 6.
During the 2-day sport season, the recreational daily bag and on-the-water possession limit is six per person in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and is 12 per person in all other areas in Florida. Off the water, the possession limit is equal to the daily bag limit on the first day and is double the daily bag limit on the second day.
Want to take an extra spiny lobster per day during the sport season? Participate in the Lionfish Challenge. Remove 25 or more lionfish from Florida waters before the sport season to qualify. See below for more information.
Spiny lobster must have a carapace larger than 3 inches and when caught by diving, must be measured in the water. The carapace is measured beginning at the forward edge between the rostral horns, excluding any soft tissue, and proceeding along the middle to the rear edge of the carapace.
Night diving for spiny lobster is prohibited during the sport season in state waters off Monroe County.
Harvest is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the sport season and in the Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay, the lobster sanctuary in Card Sound and the no-take areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary during both the 2-day sport season and the regular season.
Action: Revamped program has commercial and recreational categories
Information: Remove 25 or more lionfish (or sell at least 25 pounds commercially) between Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 20, 2017) and Labor Day (Sept. 4, 2017) to enter the FWC’s Lionfish Challenge and be eligible to win prizes. The recreational and commercial harvesters who check in the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s recreational Lionfish King or Queen and Commercial Champion, respectively.
Information: FWC staff will host several spotted seatrout workshops in July and August across the state to gather public input on management of this species. Dates and locations will be posted online at the link below soon.
Information: Snapper and grouper season is here. That means it is time to sign up for or renew your participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. Registration for this survey is required for all anglers (including those exempt from licensing requirements) fishing from a private vessel for the following reef species in the Gulf: red and vermilion snapper; gag, red, and black grouper; greater and lesser amberjack; banded rudderfish; almaco jack; and gray triggerfish.
If you are NOT a Gulf reef fish angler and don’t plan on fishing for these reef species in the Gulf this year, please do not sign up or renew your participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. By only sampling anglers who plan on fishing for those species, Florida is improving recreational data collection. Questions? Contact us at Marine@MyFWC.com.
Action: Trap closures slated for July 10-19 and July 20-29
Information: Two regional blue crab trap closures are coming up. During these closures, all blue crab traps must be removed from the water. These closures help FWC identify and retrieve lost and abandoned traps from the water.
On July 10-19, blue crab traps must be removed from all waters of Broward through Pasco counties.
On July 20-29, blue crab traps must be removed from all waters of Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay.
The harvest of blue crabs by other gear such as dip nets and fold-up traps is permitted. Traps that are attached to private property such as a dock are not included in the closures and can remain in the water.
Information: A 3-month citizen-science descending device study is underway to help better determine what, if any, barriers exist when using the devices. Descending devices are used to help treat barotrauma, a condition that occurs when some fish are pulled up from waters deeper than 50 feet. The study will conclude in September.
Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs
Catch a Florida Memory today
Information: Participation in any of these three programs encourages ethical angling while earning rewards for your efforts.
Saltwater Fish Life List: A list of 71 different species. Can you catch them all?
Saltwater Reel Big Fish: Recognition for extraordinarily-sized catches.
Saltwater Grand Slams: Earn rewards for catching three different specified species in a 24-hour period.
We have our first qualifying Reel Big Flounder! Measuring in at 28.5 inches, this doormat was caught by Nicholas Odle in the fall of last year, but was just recently submitted. We're sure glad he did though because this fish is definitely recognition worthy!
Don't forget to check out our CAFM Club boards to see Nicholas and all our other club members.