March of the Kingfish events continue
The Rotary Club of Clearwater will host its 20th annual kingfish tournament on April 14 out of the Clearwater Harbor Marina at Coachman Park. The event starts 6 p.m. Thursday with the Fishing for Charities Gala at the Harborview Center (300 Cleveland St., Clearwater). This kid-friendly event will include a game zone, touch tank and the movie A Dolphin Tale. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. The tournament has an entry fee of $250 a boat and will pay $5,000 for the heaviest king mackerel. To learn more, visit clearwaterrotary.org.
Many grouper species in season
April 1 was a big day for anglers who fish the Gulf of Mexico. Spiny lobster is now off limits for divers until July 25-26 for the two-day sport season. Regular lobster season opens Aug. 6.
Several species of grouper — including red, black, yellowfin, yellowmouth, rock hind, red hind and scamp — are now fair game in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico (to 9 miles offshore). The season remains open through Jan. 31.
Anglers north of Tampa Bay in Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin counties — including all waters of the Steinhatchee River, Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass — can also fish for gag grouper through June 30. But these regulations will only be in effect for 2012.
Anglers in the rest of the state (excluding the previously mentioned counties) will have their grouper season in both state and federal waters from July 1 through Oct. 31. To learn more about the gag grouper season in the Gulf of Mexico, visit myfwc.com/fishing and click on "Saltwater" and "Latest News-Hot Topics."
Remember, when fishing for grouper in the gulf, federal law requires the use of circle hooks and having a dehooking device and venting tools aboard the boat.
Free fishing days
Florida has announced four free fishing days and the first one (freshwater fishing only) is Saturday. You won't need a license, just a rod, reel and bait. The other free-fishing dates are June 2 (saltwater), June 9 (freshwater) and Sept. 1 (saltwater).
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Send your news to Outdoors Editor Terry Tomalin at [email protected] or call (727) 893-8808.