Snook to Stay off limits in Gulf for a Year
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Thursday to keep the recreational snook season in Gulf of Mexico waters closed for at least another year.
Snook have been off limits in the gulf since a January 2010 executive order was issued after a series of cold fronts killed tens of thousands of warm-water-loving creatures on both coasts. It was one of the state's worst fish kills in decades, and gulf snook stocks appeared to be harder hit than those in the Atlantic. As a result, Atlantic anglers were able to fish for three months in fall 2010, but that fishery closed again until September 2011.
Gulf anglers thought snook would be available for harvest this Sept. 1. State biologists determined that the species is not in "biological jeopardy" in the gulf, but commissioners still decided to give the stocks 12 more months to recover.
"If we have a bad winter this year, we will benefit from this caution," vice chairman Kenneth Wright said in a statement. "If we don't have a bad winter, we will let all these breeding fish come through the slot (28 to 33 inches in gulf). We'll really have done something good, and we'll have protected some of these fish."
The gulf recreational season is now expected to reopen Sept. 1, 2013. Local anglers still can catch snook during the closure, but those fish must be released. Snook season is unchanged in the Atlantic, where the seasonal closures are from Dec. 15 through Jan. 31 and from June 1 through Aug. 31.
For more on the regulations, go to MyFWC.com.
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Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors Editor