REd Snapper season lasts just 40 days
The harvest season for red snapper opened this morning, but anglers better catch them while the catching is good. Federal officials predict recreational anglers will fill their quota by July 11 when the season will shut down again at 12:01 a.m.
Here on Florida's central gulf coast you have to travel about 30 miles offshore to catch these prized sport fish. Anglers may keep two fish per day, 16 inches or longer.
But before you head offshore, consider helping the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in an ongoing study of red snapper and other reef fish. FWC biologists have been distributing survey cards at public areas, including boat ramps, piers and marinas.
If any angler catches a red snapper, regardless of the time of year, he can use the card to note where the snapper was caught and, if appropriate, released, as well as the type of equipment used, the size of the fish and its condition.
Fisheries researchers and managers use the data to assess the status of the recreational fishery. To request a postage-paid survey card in the mail, email your name and address to FishStats@MyFWC.com. You can also download a data sheet at myfwc.com/research/salt water. Click on "Recreational Fisheries" and select the article "FWC enlists anglers to assist reef fish studies."
Anglers can call in a report if they catch a tagged grouper or snapper. Since 2009, state biologists have been tagging and releasing fish to evaluate their post-catch survival. The yellow or orange tags are near the dorsal fin of the fish, and each tag has a unique number printed on the side.
If you catch a tagged fish, call the Angler Tag Return Hotline toll-free at 1-800-367-4461. Note the species, tag number, date and time of capture, catch location, fish length, type of bait used and whether the fish was kept or released. If the fish is to be released, leave the tag on.
Free fishing days
Grab your fishing gear and head to the nearest pier. Florida officials have scheduled more free fishing days. You won't need a saltwater license, just a rod, reel and bait if you go Saturday.
But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has spread out the opportunities this year so more people can take advantage of the free fishing days on the state's lakes, rivers or saltwater destinations. Make note of these free fishing Saturdays in 2012: June 9 for freshwater and Sept. 1 for saltwater.
Send your outdoors news to Terry Tomalin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (727) 893-8808.
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