FISHING AND CONSERVATION



—  FLORIDA &TAMPA BAY FISHING REGS — 

RECREATION AND REHABILITATION 


FWC announces 2022 Lionfish Challenge — 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is excited to announce the 2022 Lionfish Challenge tournament, which kicks off May 20 and ends Sept. 6. 

The Lionfish Challenge is a summer-long lionfish tournament open to competitors around the state of Florida. This is the seventh year of the Lionfish Challenge and our goal is still the same: remove as many lionfish as we can in just 3.5 months. Are you up for the Challenge?

Tournament details:

Timeline: May 20 to Sept. 6.

Categories: Participants will compete in either the commercial or the recreational division.

Prizes will be awarded in tiers as follows:

  •  Tier 1 ­- Harvest 25 lionfish (recreational category) or 25 pounds of lionfish (commercial category).
  •  Tier 2 - Harvest 100 lionfish (recreational category) or 250 pounds of lionfish (commercial category).
  •  Tier 3 - Harvest 300 lionfish (recreational category) or 500 pounds of lionfish (commercial category).
  •  Tier 4- Harvest 600 lionfish (recreational category) or 1000 pounds of lionfish (commercial category)

FloGrown is the presenting sponsor for this year’s Lionfish Challenge. FloGrown is a Florida-based fishing and outdoor apparel company that supports the organizations and divers that work to fight the lionfish invasion. This year’s tournament shirt was custom-designed and printed by FloGrown and will be awarded to participants who reach the first prize tier.

Additional prizes provided by FloGrown, Neritic, ZooKeeper, Divers Alert Network, Shearwater, Smith Optics, GoPro, YETI and MORE!

To read the full tournament rules or register, visit  FWCReefRangers.com/lionfish-challenge.

Keep up with The Challenge on our Facebook page: Facebook.com/FWCReefRangers.

For more information on FloGrown, visit Flogrown.com.



— FWC Released Shoal Bass Into Chipolariver — Reaches Milestone With Release Of Genetically Pure Hatchery-Raised Shoal Bass 


Freshwater fisheries researchers and managers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) successfully released 3,300 hatchery-raised shoal bass fingerlings (young fish) into the Chipola River in May. 

In 2018, Hurricane Michael depleted more than 90% of the shoal bass population in the Chipola River. As a direct management action following the hurricane, the FWC passed an Executive Orderthat suspended harvest and possession of shoal bass. In 2019, FWC staff recommended this regulation be adopted into rule to support ongoing conservation efforts for this species. Currently, harvest and possession of shoal bass in the Chipola River and its tributaries remains prohibited. 

“This project embodies the necessity for strategic long-term thinking in conservation and the vital role it plays, not only in word, but also in being able to implement these actions,” said Chris Paxton, Regional Fisheries Administrator for Florida’s northwest region. “Thankfully we had already been working on how to spawn these fish in case ‘something happens one day’ to this isolated population. Well, it happened in the form of a Category 5 hurricane.” 

Shoal bass are one of four of Florida’s native black bass species, and this effort marks the first time genetically pure shoal bass have been successfully raised in an FWC fish hatchery. Shoal bass are also a Florida Species of Greatest Conservation Need, which refers to native animals whose populations are of concern and are at risk or declining. The goal of raising and releasing these fish is to enhance the wild population of shoal bass to help maintain the population’s genetic purity and aid in the long-term conservation of this unique species of Florida black bass. 

The unique conservation management action of raising and releasing thousands of shoal bass fingerlings is a result of collaborative work by dedicated staff from the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The shoal bass were raised at FWC’s Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center near Holt.  

“Shoal bass have very specific habitat needs and it is a major milestone to successfully spawn and grow these fish to a size suitable for stocking,” said Bob DeMauro, Hatchery Manager at FWC’s Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center. “It is an incredible success to raise these riverine fish in a still-water hatchery pond when they are used to flowing water and limestone shoals in their natural habitat.” 

FWC’s freshwater fisheries biologists will continue to monitor the Chipola River shoal bass population and evaluate the contribution of these stocking efforts through genetic testing. 

“This is a great example of research and management partners working together to protect and conserve this native black bass species,” said Andy Strickland, freshwater fisheries biologist with FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. 

The Chipola River is the only waterbody in Florida with a known naturally reproducing shoal bass population. This spring-fed river originates just north of Marianna, flowing south for 95 miles through Jackson, Calhoun and Gulf counties where it joins the Apalachicola River. 


Gov. DeSantis Announces 57-Day 2022 Gulf Red Snapper Recreational Season 

DESTIN, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the 2022 Gulf red snapper recreational season which will total 57 days, the longest season since the state assumed management of red snapper and will include both a summer and fall season. Those fishing from private recreational vessels in state and federal waters in the Gulf and charter vessels without a federal reef fish permit who are limited to fishing in state waters will be able to participate in the 2022 Gulf red snapper season. 

The 45-day summer season will begin on June 17 and continue through July 31. The 12-day fall season is the longest fall season since the beginning of state management and spans the following dates:

  •  October 8-9
  •  October 15-16
  •  October 22-23
  •  November 11-13 (Veteran’s Day Weekend)
  •  November 25-27 (Weekend after Thanksgiving) 


Extension of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout regulations in SW Florida through August 31

The following regulatory measures in southwest Florida for Sarasota Bay through Gordon Pass in Collier County will be extended through August 31, 2022:

  • Snook and redfish will remain catch-and-release.
  • Normal regulations for recreational spotted seatrout harvest have resumed with the addition of a six-fish recreational vessel limit. Commercial harvest has also resumed but harvest is held to the recreational three-fish bag and six-fish vessel limits.
  • These regulations are for all state waters south of State Road 64 in Manatee County, including Palma Sola Bay, through Gordon Pass in Collier County but not including the Braden River or any tributaries of the Manatee River.

Atlantic snook to close in state and federal waters 

  • The recreational harvest of snook in Atlantic state and federal waters has a regular season closure that starts June 1.
  • Snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. Seasonal harvest closures and anglers using proper handling methods when practicing catch-and-release help conserve Florida’s valuable snook populations and can ensure the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come. 
  • To learn more and see a video about catch-and-release fishing and the best way to handle a fish, visit yFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and then “Fish Handling Tips.”
  • If you practice catch-and-release fishing during the closed season, you can still contribute to data collection by submitting your catch information for this and other species through the iAngler app. Learn more on the Angler Action Foundation’s website at AnglerActionFoundation.com.


Grouper, Hogfish and Blue-line Tilefish seasons reopen May 1 in Atlantic 

The following species will reopen to recreational harvest May 1 in Florida state and federal waters of the Atlantic: hogfish; blueline tilefish; gag, black, red, yellowmouth and yellowfin grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby.

Hogfish will remain open through Oct. 31, 2022, on the east coast of Florida as well as south and east of Cape Sable on the Gulf coast. Grouper species listed above will remain open through Dec. 31, 2022, on the east coast of Florida and all state waters off Monroe County.


Greater Amberjack reopens to recreational harvest in Gulf waters May 1-31 

The recreational harvest of greater amberjack will open in Gulf state and federal waters May 1-31.Following a closure in June and July, The recreational harvest of greater amberjack and gray triggerfish will reopen in Gulf state and federal waters Aug. 1.  Greater amberjack is scheduled to remain open through Oct. 31 in Gulf state and federal waters.


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. And this may mean walking this fish to the shore if fishing from a pier.)

Other tips:

  •  Correctly using a de-hooking 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 MyFWC.com/FishHandling.
  • 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.


GRAY TRIGGERFISH —  The recreational gray triggerfish season reopens to harvest in Gulf state and federal waters March 1, closing to harvest May 2, 2020.     If you plan to fish for gray triggerfish in Gulf state or federal waters, excluding Monroe County, from a private recreational vessel, you must sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler . FREE

  • To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” under “Reef Fish.”    
  • Learn more about gray triggerfish regulations at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish,” which is under the “Reef Fish” tab. 
  • NOAA Fisheries recently announced that the Gulf recreational gray triggerfish fishery is estimated to meet its quota in early May, prompting an early quota closure in federal waters of May 2. At its February meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved also closing recreational harvest of gray triggerfish in state waters when Gulf federal waters close.
  • Gray triggerfish is scheduled to remain open through Dec. 31 in Gulf state and federal waters but an early quota closure is possible for either species. 

FWC Approves Proposed Black Crappie Regulations 

At its May meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously approved staff moving forward with proposed regulations changes to size and/or bag limits for black crappie on specific Florida waterbodies.

FWC’s freshwater fisheries management staff recommend:

  •  Removing the 12-inch minimum length limit on Lake Jackson (Osceola County).
  •  Removing specific size and bag limits on the following Fish Management Areas (they will return to statewide regulations of 25 fish daily bag limit and no minimum size limit):
  •  Montgomery Lake
  •  Watertown Lake
  •  Suwannee Lake
  •  Hardee County Park
  •  Bobby Hicks Park Pond
  •  Gadsden Park Pond
  •  Manatee Lake
  •  Largo Central Park Nature Preserve 

“Anglers fish for specks (black crappie) when they want to have a fish fry,” said FWC Commissioner Gary Lester. “ Black crappie remains a popular target for anglers and we commend staff’s dedication to ensuring crappie fisheries thrive in Florida.”


FWC Approves Proposed Redfish Rule Changes For State Waters 
At its May meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved proposed management regions and regulation changes for redfish in state waters. 

The proposed rule changes would: 

  •  Modify the redfish management regions. 
  •  Prohibit captain and crew from retaining a bag limit when on a for-hire trip.
  •  Reduce the off-the-water transport limit from six to four fish per person.
  •  Increase the bag limit for the Big Bend region from one to two fish per person
  •  Reduce the eight-fish vessel limit in each of the proposed management regions:
    •  Panhandle, Big Bend, Northeast: four fish. 
    •  Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest, Southeast: two fish. 
  •  Allow only catch-and-release fishing for redfish in the Indian River Lagoon region. 

“With this new management approach, this agency is committed to continuing to work with our partners and stakeholders in finding solutions for redfish” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. 
Staff plans to continue to gather input on the proposed rules and will return to the Commission for a Final Rule Hearing later this year. 
The modification of redfish management regions and regulations, as part of the new management approach, will better capture regional differences and improve angler satisfaction. 


FWC Approves Cobia Rule Changes For State Waters 

At its May meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved regulation changes for cobia in state waters. 

Changes effective July 1, 2022, include: 

  • Increasing the minimum size limit from 33 inches to 36 inches fork length for all state waters.
  • Reducing the commercial bag limit from two to one fish per harvester per day for Atlantic state waters.
  • Reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit from six to two fish per vessel per day for Atlantic state waters. 

These changes are consistent with pending regulations in Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic federal waters. 

A recent stock assessment determined the cobia stock is undergoing overfishing, and as a result, reductions in current harvest are needed. These changes for commercial and recreational harvesters in state and federal waters are necessary to end overfishing, improve stock abundance and ensure future cobia fishing opportunities.  


Snook — The recreational harvest season for snook opens March 1 in some Gulf waters, including Escambia through Hernando counties, and waters south of Gordon Pass in Collier County through Monroe County (also includes Everglades National Park). 

Snook remains catch-and-release only in state waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County (includes all of Pasco County, Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County) through May 31, 2021, in response to the impacts of a prolonged red tide that occurred in late 2017 through early 2019. Because snook has a May 1-Aug. 31 annual season closure, this species would reopen Sept. 1, 2021. 

Unique to the region, snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. Seasonal harvest closures and anglers using proper handling methods when practicing catch-and-release help conserve Florida’s valuable snook populations and can ensure the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come.


05/24/2022