Bull Reds - Leading The Charge On Handling Bull Redfish

Everyone likes catching big fish. They put up a great fight, come with serious bragging rights, look super cool in a profile pic and, if harvested, they can feed lots of friends and family. Bull redfish are just one example of a popular saltwater species that have anglers chasing “the big one” for their next fish tale. While there is no doubt that monster reds have rightfully earned their place in the big leagues, any redfish angler worth their salt will tell you that an important part of any trip catching bull reds is the release. 

Florida regulations require that redfish over 27 inches be released. The intent of this regulation is to protect larger fish (redfish don’t usually spawn until they get larger than 27 inches). Larger fish also produce higher quality and larger numbers of eggs and sperm. 

This is why doing everything you can to help larger fish survive after release is so important. It’s also important to remember that just because a fish swims away doesn’t always mean it will survive. 

Taking steps to ensure that the fish is in good condition upon release means it has a better chance of surviving long-term to the next spawn. Use these tips to help your next bull red, or any other fish you release, survive to fight another day:

  •  Keep large fish in the water to reduce stress or injury to the fish.
  •  Use tackle that is large enough to bring the species you are targeting in quickly, reducing the chance of exhaustion.
  •  Always revive fish showing signs of exhaustion by allowing a consistent flow of water through the mouth and over the gills. Use a “figure eight motion” if you are fishing from a stationary location.
  •  Do not gaff a fish unless you intend to harvest it. 
  •  Keep fingers out of the eyes and gills.
  •  Use a descending device or venting tool on fish with signs of barotrauma (bloated belly, stomach projecting from the mouth, protruding intestines, bulging eyes). 

If you must remove fish from the water:

  •  Get them back in the water as soon as possible.
  •  Always hold them horizontally and support their weight with two hands.
  •  Use wet hands when handling, never a towel or other cloth that can remove their protective slime.
  •  Do not drag them over rocks, the gunnel of a boat, the side of a dock or pier, or any other rough surface.

Fishing from bridges or piers:  

  •  Only bring fish onto the pier or bridge if you intend to harvest.
  •  Only target large fish from bridges or piers if you have specialized gear (pier nets or slings) to support their full body, bringing up large fish without proper gear or allowing them to freefall large distances can cause injury and increase mortality.
  •  If you cannot properly lift the fish, cut the line as close to the fish as possible before releasing it back into the water. (This may mean walking this fish to the shore if fishing from a pier.)

Other tips:

  •  Correctly using a dehooking tool can help you quickly and easily remove hooks.
  •  Use single circle hooks that are non-stainless steel, non-offset and barbless.
  •  Do not fish when large predatory fish or sharks are in the area. If they show up, move to another fishing location.
  • Encourage other anglers to adopt these practices too. Learn more at

So next time you’re out on the water and catch a bull red or any other big fish for your next great fish tale, remember that landing is only half the battle and a successful release ensures more monsters for generations to come.

2021 Season Dates  —  Ended For Bay Scallops

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Additional Bay Scallop Season Dates Are As Follow— 

  • St Joseph Bay/Gulf County:   Dates:  Aug. 16 through Sept 24.  This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
  • Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County Including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks  
    Dates:    July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
  • Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County to the Hernando – Pasco County line.
  • Pasco County:  Open for 10 days starting the third Friday in July (July 16-25, 2021). This region includes all state waters south of the Hernando – Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse, including all waters of the Anclote River.

Other Regulations  —  

  • Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.
  • There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.
  • Direct and continuous transit of legally harvested bay scallops is allowed through closed areas. 
  • Boaters may not stop their vessels in waters that are closed to harvest and must proceed directly to the dock or ramp to land scallops in a closed area.
  • For information on bay scallop regulations, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops” under the “Crabs, Lobster and other Shellfish” tab. 

Boater And Scalloper Safety  —  

  • Be safe when diving for scallops. Wear a life jacket when underway and do not drink and boat. 
  • When scalloping in open water, divers should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device, and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. 
  • Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or device in open water or within 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. For more information, visit and click on “Divers-down Warning Devices.”

Stow It, Don’t Throw It —

  • Don’t forget to stow your trash securely on your vessel so that it doesn’t blow out and do not discard empty scallop shells in the Homosassa or Crystal rivers. 
  • Scallop shells may be discarded in a trash receptacle or in larger bodies of water where they are more likely to disperse.
  • Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at
  • Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants can email to ask questions or send additional information.
  • Learn more about how FWC scientists monitor Florida’s scallops by visiting and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”

—  Stone Crab Season  —  

Several recreational and commercial stone crab regulation changes go into effect in the next few weeks, just in time for the Oct. 15 season start date. Florida’s stone crab fishery has experienced a long-term decline in harvest and is likely undergoing overfishing. FWC staff worked with stakeholders on these changes that are intended to increase the stone crab population and build resiliency in the fishery. #Florida #fishing 


Stone crab season starts Oct. 15

The recreational and commercial stone crab harvest seasons start Oct. 15 and remain open through May 1, closing May 2, 2022. 

The minimum claw size limit is 2 7/8 inches. 

Recreational Trap Registration  —  As a reminder, all plastic and wood stone crab traps will need to be outfitted with a 2 3/16-inch escape ring before the 2023/2024 season. 

  • Recreational harvesters who are age 16 and older and fish with traps are required to complete an online, no-cost recreational stone crab trap registration each year. To register, visit, sign in, click the “Click here to get a License!” tile, scroll down to the “Saltwater Fishing” section, and select “Recreational Stone Crab Trap Registration.” 
  • Upon completion, each person will receive unique trap registration numbers that must be included on each trap along with the owner’s full name and address. This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.
  • Care should be taken when removing the claws so as to not permanently injure the crab.   Claws may not be taken from egg-bearing stone crabs. Stone crabs may not be harvested with any device that can puncture, crush or injure a crab’s body. Examples of devices that can cause this kind of damage include spears and hooks. 
  • Recreational harvesters may take a daily bag limit of 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less, and may use up to five stone crab traps per person. 
  • Recreational and commercial traps may be baited and placed in the water Oct. 5 but traps may not be pulled and claws may not be harvested or possessed until Oct. 15. 
  • Traps that are not being fished should be removed from the water to avoid ghost fishing, a process in which marine species get caught in the trap for extended periods of time and are not harvested. 
  • Stone crab regulations are the same in state and federal waters. 
  • The minimum claw size limit will be 2 7/8 inches (an 1/8 inch increase)  — 
  • Possession of whole stone crabs on the water will be limited to two checker boxes, each up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet OR a total volume of 24 cubic feet. 
  • Checker boxes are used to hold crabs onboard a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.
  • Upon completion, each person will receive unique trap registration numbers that must be included on each trap along with the owner’s full name and address. This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.
  •  For more information on harvesting stone crabs for recreation, trap specifications, commercial stone crab regulations and licensing information, go online to 
  • Keep up to date with saltwater and freshwater fishing regulations on your phone by downloading the Fish Rules app in the App Store or Google Play. Learn more at 
  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently adopted the new rules in response to a 22 percent decline in landings since the late 1990s, likely a result of overfishing and environmental factors like red tide, hurricane-related trap loss, warming waters, and declining water quality. Meanwhile, dockside prices have skyrocketed.
  • Here’s a rundown of the new rules that the commission developed, after numerous public workshops and in consultation with an industry-led advisory committee:
  • The harvest season will open Oct. 15 as usual but will close on May 1 instead of May 15. State fisheries scientists and some crabbers agree shortening the season will protect egg-bearing females that are now being trapped in increasing numbers in April and May.
  • The minimum claw size limit will be increased by 1/8 inch to 2 7/8 inches.

Not All Agree To The Changes —  “The changes are needed to rebuild the stock and the resiliency,” said Krista Shipley of the state Division of Marine Fisheries Management. “A combination of management changes would have the largest possible benefit.”

But not all stone crabbers agree. Kelly Kirk of the Florida Stone Crabbers Association urged commissioners to hold off on new regulations while the world is still in the grip of the covid-19 health and economic crisis.  “Delay making these decisions until after the pandemic and more data is collected,” Kirk said.

More impassioned pleas spoke to the toll this and other crises has taken on commercial fleets.  “We as commercial fishermen have suffered greatly,” association member Holly Dudley. “We are faced with losing our livelihoods if these regulations are passed. If it isn’t Mother Nature working against us, it’s the state.”

Captain Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, said a May 1 closure will benefit the fishery.  “If we shave the back side of the season to May 1, it will give us 360,200 pounds per year back in the stone crab biomass,” Kelly said.


©  Copyright   01/12/2022