Information: The bay scallop season in state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County has been postponed until further notice. This postponement is a precautionary measure due to a naturally occurring algae bloom that affects shellfish and can cause health effects in humans that consume contaminated shellfish, oysters, or clams.
All areas outside of the Gulf County region are not affected by the algae bloom and remain open to harvest.
Information: The FWC Commission listened to public testimony on and discussed several marine fisheries management items at the July 10-11 meeting in Orlando.
Approved regulation changes (final decisions on these topics made at this meeting):
Gag grouper: Approved a Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 recreational season in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, in addition 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. Also approved changing the commercial minimum size limit for gag grouper from 22 to 24 inches. The size limit change will go into effect after similar pending federal regulations are approved.
Gray triggerfish: Directed staff to issue an executive order opening gray triggerfish in Gulf state waters for a limited fall 2017 season. This season will be posted online and a press release will be issued once the season has been determined. The Commission also approved the following measures for Gulf state waters: 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, starting in 2018, while maintaining the June 1 through July 31 closed season that is already in place. These changes will go into effect after similar federal measures are approved.
Draft regulation changes (these items were discussed and will be brought back to a future meeting for final decision):
Cobia: Commission approved draft changes to be brought back to the Commission meeting in September for a final public hearing including defining all state waters north of the Monroe-Collier county line as Gulf state waters for the purpose of cobia management, increasing the minimum size limit in Gulf state waters from 33 inches to 38 inches fork length, reducing the commercial trip limit from two to one fish per person per day in Gulf state waters, and reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit to two per vessel per day in Gulf state waters.
Sheepshead and Tripletail: The Commission discussed several draft changes for statewide management of these two species but did not take action and directed staff to gather more input from commercial and recreational stakeholders on potential changes.
Federal fishery Congressional and management updates
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 and to discuss results of the recent spotted seatrout stock assessment.
Workshops will be from 6 to 8 p.m. local time the following dates and locations (see link below for details including event addresses):
Information: Spiny lobster opens for recreational and commercial harvest Aug. 6.
The recreational daily bag limit and on-the-water possession limit is 6 per person.
Spiny lobster must have a carapace larger than 3 inches and, when harvested 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.
Harvest is prohibited in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, the Biscayne Bay Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary and the no-take areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
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: 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.
Lionfish were introduced to Florida waters in 1985, and they have since become popular in the commercial seafood market. Lionfish have a delicious white, mild, flaky meat (similar to snapper or hogfish) and divers and diners alike can feel good about removing and consuming an invasive species.
From reefs to table: Commercial harvesters primarily remove lionfish using spearfishing equipment and with the possession of a valid Saltwater Products License, can be sold to a license...d Saltwater Wholesale Dealer. Restaurants nationwide are serving lionfish and chefs have been creative to incorporate the unique features of lionfish into their dish.
FWC encourages divers to remove lionfish. Purchase a Saltwater Products License, if you are interested in selling your lionfish commercially.
Are you a licensed Wholesale Dealer that currently sells lionfish or is interested in doing so? The FWC maintains a list of Florida lionfish Wholesale Dealers. Send us your information at MyFWC.com/Lionfish to be added to the list.