Looking for an easy way to get all of your saltwater fishing regulation information in one place? You are in luck. The January – June 2013 Florida Saltwater Recreational Fishing Regulations booklets are on the shelf at many of your favorite bait and tackle stores. Pick up your own copy today but remember, they are only at stores that also sell saltwater fishing licenses.
The newest edition has a striking photo of the invasive lionfish on the cover and features an article requesting public assistance removing these fish from Florida’s waters. It also includes information on upcoming regulation changes for giant anemone, unicorn filefish and Atlantic black sea bass. Love fishing for spotted seatrout or red drum? Check out the new maps detailing special management zones within the Gulf and Atlantic.
Personally, I love the printed regulation booklet. Having tangible reference materials to carry along is a wonderful thing. But keeping the public up-to-date with all the seasons, bag limits and size limits via a printed booklet can be challenging. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages more than 500 saltwater species and has five decision-making meetings each year. Fishing regulations can and do change, and while these booklets may be nice, due to cost they cannot be updated and redistributed every time a new regulation takes effect. Many anglers believe regulations become effective only on Jan. 1 and July 1, when the saltwater booklets are distributed, but that is simply not the case.
Sometimes, important rulemaking decisions have not been made when we go to print. For example, when you get your copy of the new booklet, take a look at the “Closed Season” information for Gulf gag grouper and red snapper (pages 12-13). While these are two of the most important recreational fish in the Gulf, we were unable to include the open season dates for 2013, as those dates have not been determined.
What is an angler to do? Always be sure to check our electronic versions of the regulations, which are accessible on the Internet or through our mobile website, before hitting the water. At MyFWC.com/Fishing, regulatory updates can be made at the touch of a button, instantly, and at no cost to anyone.
No Web access or unsure about a regulation? You can always call us at 850-487-0554 any weekday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
While we are on the topic of checking the regulations, it is also very important for recreational anglers to understand that state regulations are not always consistent with federal regulations. I have talked to too many people who are not aware that the rules summarized in FWC regulations booklets apply mostly to state waters of Florida. State waters are from shore to three nautical miles in the Atlantic and from shore to nine nautical miles in the Gulf. If you plan to fish in federal waters, please check the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council website (GulfCouncil.org) or the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council website (SAFMC.net) for applicable regulations.
Enough about regulations. It’s time to get out there and enjoy some of the best wintertime saltwater fishing opportunities in the country. Whether you are in southern Florida, where it’s all happening this time of year, or in northern Florida, which is now devoid of many of the pelagic “snowbird” species that migrate south for winter, there are always great opportunities for those who get off the couch and hit the water. I’m just thankful that the seatrout, red drum, flounder and black sea bass don’t feel the need to head south this time of year!
Gone Coastal is one of many ways that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Marine Fisheries Management is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. We are also available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and we would love 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 Alan.Peirce@MyFWC.com.