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Entries in Florida (111)

Tuesday
Jul292014

Florida's New Regulations Help Combat Lionfish Invasion

Florida is known as a tourist-friendly state, but starting Aug. 1, one visitor will no longer be welcome: the invasive lionfish.

Introduced into Florida waters in the late 1980s, lionfish populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat.

Go here to learn about the threat that they pose to native fish species.

Several management changes go into effect Aug. 1 that will help the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) combat the growing problem by making it easier for lionfish hunters to remove the spiny predators and limiting further introduction of the species into the waters.

Changes include:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
  • Allowing lionfish to be removed via spearfishing when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time (currently, you cannot spear any fish when using a rebreather); and
  • Allowing participants of approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not currently allowed (such as certain state parks or refuges). This will be done through a permitting system.

See or catch a lionfish? Report a sighting by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” (under “Saltwater”) and then “Lionfish.”

To learn more about lionfish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”

Tuesday
Jul222014

PETA Intensifies Anti-Fishing Campaign 

That bastion of rational thought, PETA, is taking advantage of two recent shark bites to ramp up its campaign against fishing. At both Manhattan Beach in California and Okaloosa Island in Florida, it has been using a plane to fly a banner that says, “Keep Hookers Off  Beach--- No Fishing.”

Yeah, it is just so clever with word play, equating anglers with prostitutes.

The incident in California does seem to call for a compromise of some kind regarding who can use the pier and adjoining beach and when they can use it. PETA and other zealots, meanwhile, want an outright ban on sportfishing.

At least Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth is seems to be the voice of reason.

“I don’t like that we’ve demonized fishermen because one guy was behaving seemingly very horribly,” she said. “I certainly want to make it safe for people to enter the water and water sports.”

She added that the city is considering limiting hours for fishing on the pier.

What did or did not happen when a swimmer came too close to the pier, where an angler was fighting a white shark--- and was attacked--- remains the object of debate. The angler has vigorously defended his actions, and the state has declined to prosecute him.

Manhattan Beach pier. L.A. Times photo

In Florida, meanwhile, a tourist was bitten by a small shark that likely mistook his foot--- or toes--- for fish or shellfish. The media reported that someone was fishing nearby, and PETA took it from there with its anti-fishing campaign.

Almost certainly the shark was a young hammerhead or nurse shark, both of which browse along the bottom in shallow water. Or it might have been a blacktip or spinner, common fish-eating sharks in that area.

The truth is that sharks are common in the shallows all along the coasts of Florida, but the vast majority of them are not man-eaters. Still, I wouldn’t go swimming at night, and I’d always keep a lookout for dorsal fins when I’m in the water during the day. And common sense would tell me not to swim near fishermen.

To show you what I’m talking about, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies--- Growing Up With Nature, which will be published later this year:

A couple of years passed before I once again was given the chance to figuratively see the light. This time I was fishing with live shrimp along a low seawall near a beach. “Jaws” had come out that year, and many people were afraid to swim in the ocean.

The 10 or 12 people down to my right, however, either had not seen the movie or didn’t care. Through their yelling and splashing, they left no doubt that they were having a good time.

As I watched them and waited for a bite, I saw a dorsal fin cutting through the water between the beach and the swimmers. “No, it couldn’t be,” I said to myself.

It was. A large shark cruised through the shallows, on its way toward me. I considered yelling to warn the people. But I decided against it, since the predator didn’t seem to be interested in them.

As it neared me, I saw that it was an 8- to 10-foot nurse shark, which is not a man-eater. But it was my first opportunity in a long time to finally catch a big ocean fish.

I cast the shrimp a few feet in front of the shark and waited. I was not disappointed. The big fish took, and I set the hook. In an instant the shark accelerated from a leisurely feeding pace to light speed, as it headed toward deep water.

It ran, and ran, and ran, until it had pulled all the line off my reel. Then the rod bent double, the butt slammed into my stomach, and the knot popped. The shark was gone.

 (If you like fish stories, you’ll enjoy my latest book, Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen.)

 

Monday
Jul212014

Florida to Offer Saltwater Version of TrophyCatch

Starting this fall, Florida will implement a saltwater version of its two-year-old TrophyCatch program, which reward anglers for catching big bass. The announcement was made recently at the ICAST fishing industry show in Orlando.

The “Life List” will include 71 species with four levels of achievement, based on the number of fish that anglers catch, document, photography, and release.

Additionally, fishermen will be recognized for various types of “grand slams,” including inshore (redfish, sea trout, and flounder) and blue water (dorado, sailfish, and wahoo).

The “Reel Big Fish” portion of the program will reward anglers who catch memorable, but not necessarily state- or world-record fish. For example, an amberjack of 50 inches or longer would qualify, as would a mutton snapper of 38 inches or more.

Four levels of prizes, ranging from novice to master angler, will be awarded.

Learn more here.

Thursday
Jul102014

Feds Slash Season for Red Snapper

“Environmental organizations, who have infiltrated our federal government -- they are hell-bent on reducing the fleet of fishermen.” --- Capt. Bob Zales

Back in 2009,  I started warning the nation’s anglers about the dangers posed to the future of fishing by the Obama Administration. Many of those threats center around the National Ocean Council and Catch Shares. But anti-fishing sentiment pervades this administration in general, as Zales, a Florida charter captain, points out in the aftermath of the feds reducing the red snapper season from 40 days to 9.

Zales made the comments in a Fox News article about the closure.

"I already had the boats sold out for the season and then I had to cancel those trips because I couldn't provide the service," added  Capt. Mark Hubbard.

From Fox: “Hubbard and other fishermen point out that the number of red snapper this year is the highest in decades, and say the regulation is purely bureaucratic and not really about protecting fish. The recreational fishing industry employs an estimated 150,000 people along the Gulf and pumps some $7 billion into the local economies, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. In 2012, more than 3.1 million recreational anglers took 23 million fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico region.”

Here’s what I wrote in February 2010 for ESPN Outdoors:

Environmental groups enthusiastically support federal management of our fisheries, starting with the oceans, coastal waters, and Great Lakes. They now are pressuring President Barack Obama to by-pass Congressional oversight and public discussion and instead issue an Executive Order, endorsing the recommendations of his Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and creation of a massive federal bureaucracy.

This should come as no surprise, since members in many of these organizations favor creation of “marine protected areas,” where all uses --- including recreational angling --- are banned. Almost certainly they envision these being an integral part of the “spatial planning” strategy created by the task force and to be enforced by a National Ocean Council.

What might come as a surprise, though, is that these same groups produced a “wish list” document, Transition to Green, shortly after Obama’s election. And what has happened since, starting with the President’s creation of the task force, suggests that this special interest group --- with little to no public input --- is controlling public policy on a staggering scale.

Who wrote that document and who is determining the future of fishing in federal waters these days? Here’s the list:

AMERICAN RIVERS - CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

CLEAN WATER ACTION- DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE - EARTHJUSTICE -

ENVIRONMENT AMERICA - ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND - FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

GREENPEACE - IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE - LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS

NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY - NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION

NATIONAL TRIBAL ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL - NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION

NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND - NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL - OCEANA

OCEAN CONSERVANCY - PEW ENVIRONMENT GROUP

PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY - POPULATION CONNECTION

POPULATION ACTION INTERNATIONAL

RAILS-TO-TRAILS CONSERVANCY - SIERRA CLUB - THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND - UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

Monday
Jun232014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes for Bass Limits

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) originally intended to close its survey regarding proposed changes in bass regulations on June 30. But it has decided to keep it up through the deliberation process and take a “data snippet” on June 30. Go here to participate in the survey.

The first change in the state’s bass length limits in 20 years would keep the creel limit at five, but allow just one of 16 inches or longer. In other words, anglers could keep smaller fish for the table.

At present, different parts of the state have 12- and 14-inch minimum length limits.

Some anglers might think that these regulations are intended to change the size structure by removing smaller bass, which would boost growth of remaining fish to trophy size. But that is not the case.

Actually, biologists want anglers to know that it’s all right to keep smaller bass, since spawning and recruitment aren’t issues for healthy fisheries in Florida.

Current minimum length limits don’t convey that message. Rather, they seem to suggest that smaller fish must be protected, but it’s okay to keep larger bass.

Yes, the proposed changes will protect larger fish and probably improve the odds for anglers to change quality and trophy bass. But that likely will occur because those fish are being “recycled” through catch and release.

“We are also continuing to pursue our TrophyCatch program and will be rolling out a new website in the near future,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf.

 “It is a great way of incentivizing anglers to release bass heavier than eight pounds, without passing stricter laws. Meanwhile, it provides biologists valuable data for research and marketing, and engages anglers in both citizen-science and active resource stewardship.”