FISHING AND CONSERVATION



 FLORIDA &TAMPA BAY FISHING REGS  

RECREATION AND REHABILITATION 

THIS PAGE GETS UPDATED FREQUENTLY

07/14/2022


🐬 FWC’s School Fishing Club Program expands name to include more students --

At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously approved changing the name of the High School Fishing Program to the School Fishing Club Program. The program has grown in popularity in recent years and continues to support and encourage youth anglers of all ages. The new name more accurately portrays the age range for student participation.

In 2021, the FWC’s School Fishing Club Program (formerly known as the High School Fishing Program) welcomed 24 new and 13 returning student angling clubs from Florida, offering funding for clubs committed to complete the provided FWC curriculum, as well as pre- and post-tests, and at least one conservation project. Club sponsors worked to provide support and hands-on training in knot-tying and fishing gear assembly and assisted with the clubs’ local events to increase confidence in the sport of fishing for student anglers.

Information about the 2022-2023 School Fishing Club Program will be announced in the summer of 2022. For more information about the School Fishing Club Program, visit MyFWC.com/SFC. 


FWC approves final rule to modify Gag Grouper recreational season in Gulf State waters 

At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a final rule, effective January 1, 2023, modifying the recreational season for gag grouper in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The recreational season for gag grouper in Gulf state waters will be open Sept. 1 – Nov. 10.

This modification for gag grouper in Gulf state waters is intended to prevent overfishing, improve stock abundance and help ensure future gag fishing opportunities. This change is consistent with pending regulations in adjacent federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The FWC is committed to collecting critical recreational harvest fishing data to inform management of gag grouper, in addition to other reef fish. The State Reef Fish Survey uses in-person interviews and a mail survey to collect information on recreational fishing for reef fish, such as gag grouper, from private boats. These methods provide the FWC with a clearer picture of the health of reef fish stocks throughout the state and help ensure the long-term sustainability of recreational fishing in Florida.

The State Reef Fish Angler designation is required for recreational anglers and spearfishers who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish species from a private vessel in Florida. This designation makes recreational anglers eligible for selection to receive a mail survey component of the State Reef Fish Survey. To learn more about the State Reef Fish Survey, visit MyFWC.com/SRFS.

For current recreational gag grouper regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations”, “Reef Fish” and then “Grouper.” This page will be updated with regulation modifications.


FWC issues executive order to modify 2022-23 recreational season for greater Amberjack in Gulf State waters 

Reminder: The 2022-23 greater amberjack season starts Sept. 1 in Gulf state waters 

As a reminder, the recreational season for greater amberjack in Gulf state waters will be open Sept. 1 and remain open through Oct. 31. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued an executive order to modify the 2022-23 recreational season, previously open on Aug. 1, for greater amberjack in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico during its July Commission meeting. 

The Gulf greater amberjack stock is overfished and experiencing overfishing and the recreational season modification is consistent with emergency measures implemented by NOAA fisheries for Gulf federal waters. Consistent state and federal recreational seasons for greater amberjack will help prevent quota overages and mitigate risks of future paybacks and seasonal closures.  

For current recreational amberjack regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Amberjack.” This page will be updated with the new season

At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued an executive order to modify the 2022-23 recreational season for greater amberjack in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The 2022 recreational season for greater amberjack in Gulf state waters will be open Sept. 1 - Oct. 31. 

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The Gulf greater amberjack stock is overfished and experiencing overfishing and the recreational season modification is consistent with an Emergency Rule recommended by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in Gulf federal waters. Consistent state and federal recreational seasons for greater amberjack would help prevent quota overages and mitigate risks of paybacks and seasonal closures.  

For more information, including the July 2022 Commission meeting presentation, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” 

For current recreational amberjack regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Amberjack.” This page will be updated with the new season dates.      07.14/2022

GULF  STATE AND FEDERAL WATERS:

Minimum Size Limit: 34” Fork Length
Daily Bag Limit: 1 per person
Season: Open May 1-31 and Aug. 1-Oct. 31.

 ATLANTIC STATE WATERS:
Minimum Size Limit: 28” Fork Length
Daily Bag Limit: 1 per person
Season: Open year-round
Special regulations apply for this species when fishing in Biscayne National Park.
In the Atlantic reef fish fishery,
 gear rules require de-hooking tools, and non-stainless steel hooks in all state waters, and non-offset circle hooks N. of 28 ° N. latitude.

FEDERAL WATERS:
Minimum size limit: 28” FL
Daily Bag Limit: 1 per person 


FWC approves changes for Redfish in state waters following final rule hearing --

At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved new management regions and regulation changes for redfish in state waters following the final rule hearing. 

These regulation changes, which go into effect Sept. 1, 2022, will:

  •  Establish nine redfish management regions. 
  •  Prohibit captain and crew from retaining a bag limit of redfish when on a for-hire trip.
  •  Reduce the off-the-water transport limit from six to four fish per person.
  •  Reduce the vessel limit in each of the management regions to be:
    •  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.
  •  Set the bag limit to one fish in the Panhandle, Big Bend, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest, Southeast and Northeast regions. 
    •  This is a reduction to the bag limit in the Northeast region. 

The changes to redfish management regions and regulations, as part of FWC’s new management approach, will better capture regional differences and improve angler satisfaction.  For current recreational redfish regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Redfish.” This page will be updated with the new regulations when they take effect. 


FWC proposes rule for Goliath Grouper spawning aggregations —  

At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed a rule to increase protections for adult goliath while spawning. The proposed rule, if approved at the final hearing, would prohibit fishing within 1,000 feet of three goliath grouper aggregation sites from July 15 – Oct. 15 each year. These sites were identified by stakeholders as having the highest density of goliath grouper within state waters during the spawning season. The three sites are: 

  •  MG 111 and Warrior Reef
  •  Ana Cecilia and Mizpah Wrecks
  •  Castor and Bud Bar Wrecks 

For current recreational Goliath grouper regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Goliath.

Catching and Releasing Goliath Grouper

  • If you capture a goliath grouper, the fish must be immediately released alive, unharmed, and with proper fish handling techniques.*
  • Do not remove large goliath groupers from the water. The skeletal structure of a large goliath grouper cannot support its weight out of the water and if brought aboard a vessel or removed from the water, the fish may sustain fatal injuries.
  • FWC recommends anglers also keep smaller goliath groupers in the water when removing a hook.
  • If a goliath grouper shows signs of barotrauma, use a descending device or venting tool to help the fish return to depth.
  • You can photograph your catch if you follow the recommendations listed here and if it does not delay the release of the fish in any way.


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?  Are you up for the competition?

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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.


Recreational Red Snapper Summer Season closes Aug. 1 in Gulf State and Federal waters 

The last day to harvest red snapper in Gulf state and federal waters during the summer season for private recreational anglers is July 31. The season closes Aug. 1, reopening for five fall weekends beginning Oct. 8.

The current season also applies to for-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit but they are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only. 

To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab. You can also find updated Florida saltwater fishing regulations on the Fish Rules app. Learn more at FishRulesApp.com or follow Fish Rules at Instagram.com/FishRulesApp or Facebook.com/FishRulesApp.

If you plan to fish for red snapper in state or federal waters from a private recreational vessel, even if you are exempt from fishing license requirements, you must sign up as a State Reef Fish Angler(annual renewal required). Sign up as a State Reef Fish Angler at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/SRFS.

State Reef Fish Anglers could receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s State Reef Fish Survey. These surveys were developed specifically to provide more robust recreational data for management of red snapper and other important reef fish and have allowed the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in both state and federal waters. If you receive a survey in the mail, please respond whether you fished this season or not.

When catching red snapper and other deep-water fish, look out for symptoms of barotrauma (injuries caused by a rapid change in pressure) such as the stomach coming out of the mouth, bloated belly, distended intestines and bulging eyes. When releasing fish with barotrauma, use a descending device or venting tool to help them survive and return to depth. 

 

Extension of Snook, Redfish and Spotted Seatrout regulations in SW Florida 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.


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.


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. 


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.



*-07/16/2022