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Entries in Florida (240)


Florida Sets 40-Day Season For Red Snapper in Gulf Waters

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Gov. Rick Scott are excited to announce a 40-day recreational red snapper season for both Gulf state and federal waters. A 24-day season was originally proposed.

Gov. Scott said, “Florida is a premier fishing destination and saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has a $7.6 billion economic impact in our state every year. Adding additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing not only benefits our visitors but also our Gulf Coast communities. I am pleased to announce this extension today, and encourage visitors and residents to start planning their summer fishing trips.”

“Florida is an important access point throughout the nation and world for recreational red snapper fishing,” said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard. “With other Gulf states setting longer seasons than what Florida had initially proposed, it was important for us to find a fair resolution that would provide equal access to red snapper in Florida. FWC worked collaboratively with NOAA Fisheries to come up with a season that would provide access to all of those that choose Florida as their fishing destination. We appreciate the leadership from Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Congressman Neal Dunn and we are excited to announce that extension today.”  

Florida will be setting the season in 2018 and 2019 in both state and federal waters through a fishery-management pilot program (also referred to as an Exempted Fishing Permit). The 2018 proposed season would open June 11 and close July 21.

This recreational season will include those fishing for red snapper from private recreational vessels. For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are also included but are limited to targeting reef fish in Gulf state waters only.

This Exempted Fishing Permit will not apply to commercial fishermen or for-hire operations with a valid federal reef fish permit. 


Updated Florida Website For Fishing Line Recovery And Recycling

 Recently updated, Florida's Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program website is one of the best resources out there for educating anglers on the importance of recycling monofilament and fluorocarbon fishing line and showing how to do it.

The new-look site managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission includes an interactive recycling bin map for those fishing in Florida. Additionally, it offers instructions for anglers--- no matter what state they live in--- on building outdoor bins, as well as personal mini bins from tennis ball containers.

The site encourages anglers to be more "line conscious" in keeping discarded line from harming fish and wildlife and offers valuable tips. Among them:

  • Consider the age of your line and its strength, and keep track of and store loose pieces of fishing line.
  • Check line frequently for frays that may break easily.
  • Don’t leave bait unattended since birds may attempt to take the bait from the l
  • Cast away from trees, utility lines, and other areas where line may get caught.
  • If you fish from a boat, make it a boat rule not to throw any kind of plastic or trash overboard, especially monofilament line.

Boat US Foundation's Reel In and Recycle website is another great resource. It provides a video on building a  bin, as well as offers signs and decals to encourage recycling.



Ramp Finally Could Be Built At Fellsmere Fishery

Although $104 million of taxpayer money has been used to build a 10,000-acre trophy bass fishery in the Fellsmere Water Management Area, it remains without a boat ramp.

Anglers are optimistic, however, that one finally will be built following a recent meeting of the St. Johns River Water Management District. Doug Bournique, a member of the governing board urged, "Smoke a peace pipe and get 'er done. Let's get this thing done."

Additionally, spokesman Ed Garland said the district "should reach an agreement with Fellsmere Joint Ventures by the end of February and will apply for a grant in March from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission toward funding the boat ramp project, expected to cost about $550,000."

Failure to close the deal on 5 acres near the fishery's northeast corner has been the cause for the multi-year delay, leaving canoe and kayak anglers as the only ones who can access it.

If negotiations are not completed on time, the district will look to place a ramp in the northwest corner, which already has parking and facilities for anglers and hunters who visit Stick Marsh and T.M. Goodwin. It would cost more, about $800,000 because of permit requirements from Army Corps of Engineers and building an elevated road across a canal to reach the ramp site.

If agreement is reached for the preferred site, ramp should be ready for use within a year. At secondary choice, more time would be required because of applications, permitting requirements, and approval of deadlines. "This project would likely two years or less," Garland said.


Tagging Studies Help States Manage Bass Fisheries

Tagged bass from Florida's Lake Eustis

Tagging studies are among the most important management tools for fisheries biologists.

"Biologists primarily use tagging studies to estimate annual catch and harvest rates for fish populations to help managers set regulations that sustain healthy bass populations," said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which is conducting three studies that range from a statewide look at trophy bass to one targeting fish in a single lake. 

"These studies also engage anglers in the scientific process, helping connect researchers and managers to the stakeholders they serve and validate the science on which management decisions are made."

A study begins with researchers collecting, tagging, and releasing fish. Each tag has a phone number on it so anglers can report information about their catch. In some cases, tags also have monetary rewards associated with them to encourage angler response.

In Florida, biologists use 3.5-inch yellow plastic dart tags, attached on the left side near the dorsal fin.

"If you catch a tagged bass, clip the tag close to the fish's back and save the tag," FWC explained. "Anglers are not obligated to release tagged bass, but must comply with harvest regulations.

"When you report the tag, an FWRI (Fish and Wildlife Research Institute) member will ask a few brief questions about your catch and help you claim the monetary reward.

"Remember to check each bas you catch. Sometimes algae covers the tag, making it somewhat difficult to see."

The trophy-size bass study is Florida's most ambitious, designed to evaluate the influence of the TrophyCatch program. One year before the program started in 2012, biologists tagged bass weighing 8 pounds or more in fisheries across the state.

"They used data collected during that period to establish a baseline for catch and harvest rates," FWC said. "Biologists estimate that anglers caught approximately 21 percent of the tagged bass, and harvested 4 percent during the baseline year. "They also found that bass weighing more than 10 pounds were harvested at a higher rate, primarily for taxidermy, than smaller bass."

Biologists also are conducting a reward-based tagging study in 16 lakes in northwestern Florida to measure catch and harvest rates and a stock assessment tagging study in Lake Eustis on the Harris Chain.

"Biologists will use data from tag reports (on Eustis) to estimate the percentage of bass caught and harvested each year," FWC said.

"They will combine this information with other data and provide it to mangers, who can then determine if the current length and bag limits are appropriate or need to be adjusted.

"As a secondary objective," it continued, "biologists are using what they learn from the tag returns, along with data from creel surveys and other information, to determine the best way to estimate the total number of bass in a lake."


Five Years In, TrophyCatch Exceeds Expectations, Reveals Where Big Bass Most Often Are Caught

Five years in, TrophyCatch has exceeded expectations, according to Tom Champeau, fisheries chief for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

"We're really happy with the way that the program has grown," he added. "We've had more than 6,000 submissions. And that's provided us with a lot of insights as to where big fish are in Florida, when they are caught, and the frequency with which they are caught.

"It really helps us (for managing fisheries)."

TrophyCatch is a citizen-science conservation rewards program for bass anglers, which emphasizes live-release of largemouth bass weighing eight pounds and heavier. During the first five years, 47 bass weighing 13 pounds or more were reported, with the largest checking in at 16-12.

It was caught in a "neighborhood pond" on March 18, 2017.

One of the biggest surprises to come out of TrophyCatch has been the number of trophy bass taken in residential retention and golf course ponds, Champeau said.

"These ponds are everywhere in Florida, and we can look at how they're managed," he added. "They tell us that the big fish are out there and that even people fishing from the bank can catch them."

Kingsley Lake, a 2,000-acre semi-private fishery in the northeastern part of the state, also yielded unexpected productivity.  Hundreds of bass weighing 8 pounds or better were caught there, including  13 that weighed 13 pounds or more and two that topped 15.

"Kingsley is a sinkhole lake, and we have others like that," the fisheries chief said.

On the flip side, Lake Kissimmee and the Kissimmee Chain, with more than 100,000 acres of public water, topped public waters for entries.    "We predicted that," Champeau said.

Likely of most interest to anglers, data from five years of TrophyCatch combined with information from a trophy bass tagging program has allowed FWC to extrapolate that anglers annually catch between 2,500 and 4,500 bass weighing 8 pounds or more, from a statewide pool of 15,000 to 30,000 trophy fish.

"Those are all the big bass that we know about (reported via TrophyCatch) and those we don't know about," said FWC researcher Drew Dutterer. "Those statistics have been consistent across five years."

He added, “Trophy bass are a pretty big priority for our agency and for the state of Florida. It’s one of the identifying characteristics of our Florida bass fishery, and one of the reasons a lot of people come during the winter and take fishing vacations in Florida, the chance to catch a big fish."

Champeau is also pleased that TrophyCatch has helped promote freshwater fishing in general and especially conservation and catch-and-release.

"A lot of fish were returned that might otherwise have been mounted," he said. "It (TrophyCatch) has been a great tool for teaching anglers how to handle fish. We've encouraged immediate release and improved survival."

Finally, TrophyCatch also has helped FWC built partnerships with the fishing industry and manufacturers, as sponsors of the program, as well as the media.

"Hopefully, they've seen the benefits too, both for conservation and their businesses," Champeau said.