Seatrout seasonal closures End
One of the most confusing fishery regulations in history has been changed to the delight of anglers throughout Florida. As of Sunday, anglers will be able to fish for spotted seatrout year round.
The new rules remove the seasonal closures in the various seatrout management zones around the state. In addition, anglers in northeast Florida will see their bag limit go up to six fish per day in 2012.
The local trout fishery has been closed since Nov. 1. The unseasonably mild winter has kept the fish on the flats longer than usual and as a result, the catch rate has been good.
The regulations divide the state into northern and southern regions, cutting through the Tampa Bay area with most of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in the south region and areas north of Tarpon Springs' Fred Howard Park Causeway in the north.
Anglers in the south zone can keep four fish per day, while their trout-catching comrades in the north zone can keep five, until Feb. 1, when the new bag limit kicks in for the northeast. The slot limit statewide is 15-20 inches, but anglers may keep one trophy fish, 20 inches or longer as part of their daily bag limit.
Grouper changes being ushered in
Finally, a bit of good news for bottom fishermen. After years of seeing bag limits shrink, the trend seems to be reversing as far as red grouper are concerned. The recreational bag limit for red grouper caught in the state waters of the Gulf of Mexico (excluding Monroe County) increases today from two to four fish. But on Sunday, fishing for shallow water grouper shuts down in the Atlantic state waters. Red grouper are typically found on this coast in federal waters, which begin 9 miles offshore, but that doesn't mean you can catch reds closer to land.
Gag grouper, sometimes mistakenly called black grouper, are more commonly caught in shallow water during the winter months, but the season for gags will remain closed through March 31. (This includes the regularly scheduled annual closure from Feb. 1 to March 31 in Gulf state waters.) The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will revisit gag regulations in February, after federal officials have finalized their new rules. Shallow-water grouper — gag, red, black, yellowfin and yellowmouth grouper; scamp; and rock and red hind — will close Feb. 1 in Gulf state waters and reopen April 1.
Times Outdoors-Fitness Editor