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Entries in Florida (117)

Tuesday
Sep232014

Time to Begin Limited Harvest of Goliath Groupers?

 Photo by Robert Montgomery

Count me as one who favors a limited permit system for harvest of goliath groupers by recreational anglers.

The large, predatory fish have made a remarkable recovery in Florida waters, with fishermen frequently tangling with them as they pursue other species. And sometimes the goliaths eat those other species as they are being reeled in.

A legitimate concern, though, is how an exploding population of exotic lionfish will affect the population. The invaders are notorious predators on juvenile fish of many species, goliaths included.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will consider management issues when a new stock assessment is completed next spring.

Overharvest by commercial and recreational fishermen nearly pushed the goliaths to extinction by the mid 1980s. But during the 25 years since harvest was banned, they’ve rebounded in dramatic fashion.

The News-Press reports the following:

In a University of Florida survey, 1,518 recreational hook-and-line fishermen, 574 recreational spear fishermen, 697 commercial fishermen and 352 sightseeing divers answered a series of questions about goliath grouper.

Among the findings:

  • Commercial fishermen: 68 percent were interested in harvesting goliath grouper; 32 percent said goliath grouper encounters were desirable; 42 percent said the goliath grouper is a nuisance species.
  • Recreational hook-and-line and spear fishermen: 78 percent were interested in harvesting goliath grouper; 52 percent said goliath grouper encounters were desirable; 20 percent said the goliath grouper is a nuisance species.
  • Sightseeing divers: 87 percent said goliath grouper encounters were desirable; 9 percent said the goliath grouper is a nuisance species (these divers were not asked about their interest in harvesting goliath grouper but did express support for keeping the fishery closed to harvest). 

Some hook-and-line fishermen and spear fishermen consider goliath grouper a nuisance because they steal hooked and speared fish.

Sightseeing divers, on the other hand, like seeing and photographing goliath grouper, which can grow to 8 feet in length and weigh 800 pounds.

"We learned from the survey and anecdotal information that the difference is the individual's goals," said Florida Sea Grant agent Joy Hazell, co-author of the report on the survey. "If a diver sees a big, giant fish that he's spent money to see, it's a good experience. If a fisherman has a good fish hooked and loses it to a goliath grouper, the perception is he's lost money. As the goliath grouper population has increased, there's a perception for some people that it's becoming a problem,"

Spearfisherman Zachary Francis of Fort Myers is all for a well managed goliath grouper harvest.

"They should have a bag limit, like one per boat per day, and a slot size," he said. "The fact is that they're overpopulated. Any dive you make, you'll see five or six. They can be very aggressive. They're the premier predatory fish on the reef, and they're eating all the other groupers."

While goliath grouper will aggressively go after speared and hooked fish, studies show that its main diet is crabs and other crustaceans and slow-moving fish.

Brent Argabright, owner of Dean's Dive Center in Fort Myers, is also interested in a managed harvest.

"I don't think they should just give people free rein or just have a 10-day season," he said. "If the state wants to raise money as well as clean out a few of them, they could do like they do with alligator and sell permits."

Wednesday
Sep172014

Rubio Fisheries Bill Praised by Saltwater Community

Representatives of the nation’s 11 million saltwater anglers and the industries they support, which collectively have a $70 billion annual economic impact, commended Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his work on the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, introduced today.

The bill creates a strong base to ensure that the recreational fishing and boating community’s priorities are addressed during reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, the overarching law managing the nation’s saltwater fisheries.

“Sen. Rubio worked closely with our community to understand our needs and concerns,” noted Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We know it will take a bi-partisan commitment to enact this into law, and we have been equally impressed with the work of Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to include our priorities in his draft Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act reauthorization.”

Rubio said, “Florida’s fisheries deeply impact the economic well-being of our state, as well as many Floridians whose way of life depends on them. But our fisheries are also a national treasure that feed Americans across the country, provide jobs across the food industry chain, and have become a favorite pastime for millions who provide direct and indirect benefits to our local, state and national economies.

 “This legislation ensures necessary improvements to management and data collection are made to fully optimize our fisheries and help advance Florida’s interests when it comes time to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, I know there is more work to be done, and I will continue to work with Floridians and my colleagues in Congress to prioritize reauthorization of the MSA in the next Congress.”

Recreational anglers’ primary priorities are identified in the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management’s report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”  The Commission, headed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, identifies six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision, including adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.

“We are pleased to see many of the Morris-Deal priorities addressed in Sen. Rubio’s legislation, reflecting his commitment to give long overdue attention to improving recreational fisheries management,” said Angers.

“We look forward to continuing our engagement with Sen. Rubio and Sen. Begich to incorporate several other priorities in the final version of any legislation, including a fix for the broken management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf.”

Contributors to the work of the Commission include American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Billfish Foundation

Friday
Sep122014

Little Known Florida Fishery Revealed

Miami Herald photo

Have you heard about the clown knifefish fishery in Florida? Probably not.

The clown knifefish is one of 41 exotic species observed or established in the Sunshine State. Most are small specimens, but the clown knifefish, along with the butterfly peacock, is a notable exception.

Here’s what the News Observer reports about the predatory exotic fish now being targeted by anglers:

“Boynton Beach freshwater fishing guide captain Butch Moser, 66, started catching the Asian invaders for his clients in the Ida-Osborne chain of lakes in Palm Beach County not long after the first one was spotted during 1994, probably a discarded pet from someone’s home aquarium.

“Numbers of clown knifefish grew steadily over the next decade and a half, but their range never really expanded north of West Palm Beach or south of Boca Raton. They kept Moser and his customers busy for hours at a time, targeting them around grassy shorelines and beneath bridges.

“During December 2008, Nick Fusco caught a 13 1/2-pounder near Lake Clarke Shores that reigns as the International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record for the species.

"A chill in January 2010 knocked the fish way back; clown knifefish, like other tropical exotics, can’t tolerate water temperatures below 54 degrees for very long. But the back-pedaling jumpers have rebounded to the point that Moser and a few other guides and anglers target them again. Moser said he is far from the 50-fish days he enjoyed pre-freeze, but his clients recently have caught up to a dozen in a day, along with largemouth bass and other native species.”

Here’s the latest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  about the clown knifefish:

“Not only peacocks were slammed by the cold and are now recovering, said Moser. In late August, he said he had ‘never seen the fishing as good as the past few weeks.’ Several locks along the canal are open, and running water is attracting sunshine bass, peacock bass, clown knifefish -- the whole gamut.

“One of his favorites, the unique clown knifefish, is running from 3 to 10 pounds. The fish are often full of shad but aggressively take any 3- to 4-inch minnow. According to Moser, when hooked, they back up, then make a quick run and jump like a tarpon. They are tough to net since they back away and jump, so Moser’s tip is to get the net under them when they jump.

“He recommends watching for a round boil and bubbles on the surface. Cast directly to the disturbance or fish a float with a live bait 3- to 4-feet deep and kept down with light weights. In the heat of the day, shade around bridges or pilings is productive. Since clown knifefish are a relatively new (1994) introduction, with a limited range in the Osborne-Ida chain, they are not included in the Big Catch program. Catches should not be transported alive elsewhere.”

Go here to learn about all of Florida's nonnative fish.

Monday
Sep082014

Anglers Register More Than 1,000 Bass in Florida's TrophyCatch

Mark Lemieux has caught at least 17 TrophyCatch bass since January, all of from an Ocklawaha area lake. This one weighed 11-9. FWC photo

More than 1,000 largemouth bass exceeding 8 pounds have been caught, documented, and released in Florida in less than two years. Want to know where and see photos? Simply go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and select the “Gallery of Catches” or you can pick “Search Catches” to narrow your results.

“TrophyCatch has been exceptionally well-received by anglers, corporate partners, nonprofits and conservation agencies around the country that see this as an innovative win-win program,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

TrophyCatch is the result of a partnership effort between the FWC, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. and corporate partners. It is an incentive-based conservation program designed for anglers who catch and release largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds, in Florida. Program goals are as follows:

  • Collect valid information through citizen-science about trophy bass to help the FWC enhance, conserve and promote trophy bass fishing.
  • Encourage catch-and-release of the biggest, oldest, most valuable bass.
  • Excite anglers about Florida freshwater fishing, encouraging them to purchase licenses and to fish more, resulting in benefits to anglers, fishing-related businesses, local communities and the fisheries by having more support and funding for conservation.
  • Share information about fishing opportunities and destinations to make fishing more enjoyable.

Anglers are encouraged to follow catch-and-release guidelines for these big bass and to document the catch through a photograph of the entire bass on a scale with the weight clearly legible. By registering at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, anglers are eligible for an annual drawing for a Phoenix Bass Boat, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. Then, when they follow the rules to document legally caught bass heavier than 8 pounds and release them alive in the same water system where caught, they earn  prizes (see website for detailed rules and prize information).

Monday
Sep012014

Nursery-Raised Coral Spawning to Build Reef Habitat in Keys

Staghorn coral photo from Southeast Fisheries Science Center

In August, researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) observed transplanted nursery-raised staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) spawning for the first time at Tropical Rocks, about 4 miles offshore of Marathon.

These corals were supplied by the Coral Restoration Foundation and Mote Marine Lab nurseries and outplanted by FWC. The project was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act via The Nature Conservancy.

The FWC and the Conservancy are reseeding coral reefs in efforts to aid recovery of wild staghorn populations, which contributes significantly to reef growth, island formation, and coastal protection, while providing essential habitat for a number of important reef fish.

“This is the first time that we have seen staghorn coral spawning at the reef tract that included corals grown as part of our nursery program,” said Caitlin Lustic, coral recovery coordinator for the Conservancy in Florida.

“This spawning event shows that outplanted corals have the ability to reproduce just like a natural colony and furthers our goal of creating breeding colonies of coral that can repopulate reefs on their own.”

The FWC, in collaboration with the Conservancy and other American Recovery and Reinvestment Act partners, began construction on the Middle Keys coral nursery in late 2009 but suffered setbacks due to a coldwater kill and, later, a warm-water bleaching event. The goal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project was to expand the current nurseries, develop new nurseries and outplant high numbers of nursery-grown corals throughout the Florida reef tract and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“With this project, we developed excellent working relationships with the Conservancy and the rest of our partners,” said Kerry Maxwell, coral researcher with the FWC.

“Together we boosted threatened staghorn populations and realized the ultimate goal of the project: spawning. Even though the project backed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is complete, I anticipate we will all continue to collaborate toward the common goal of coral reef restoration.”

To learn more about corals go here.

To learn more about Conservancy efforts to protect Florida’s coast, including coral reef habitat, go here.