officials seek input on status for Select fish
Tarpon and snook are two of Florida's most popular species among recreational anglers. But should they be given special status? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will host a series of "webinars" to gather public input on sport fish and game fish status for these and other popular saltwater fish.
These online events, scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Dec. 10 and Dec. 12, are free and open to the public. But because the same topic will be discussed on both dates, state biologists ask that interested parties only register and participate in one webinar, which can be found at fwc.adobeconnect.com/mfm.
Suggested parameters for "game fish" include no commercial harvest, possession or sale; fish could only be targeted with hook and line; and captain and crew of for-hire vessels such as charter boats would have a bag limit of zero. Species that may get game fish designation include snook, red drum (redfish) and spotted seatrout.
The "sport fish" designation, as proposed, would offer a higher level of protection than game fish by including no recreational harvest as well as no commercial harvest, possession or sale and targeting sport fish only with hook and line. Tarpon could become a catch-and-release-only fishery if new rules under consideration by the FWC are adopted. Other species that could get sport fish designation include bonefish, permit and billfish.
Florida has game fish rules for several species of freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, but no similar designation for saltwater species. In most states, game fish status means no commercial sale or harvest. Game fish laws vary from state to state along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Texas lists 12 species of game fish, including red drum, sailfish, marlin and tarpon. Louisiana, however, lists just three species: red drum, sailfish and marlin.
Tarpon, one of the most important recreational species in Florida, already currently enjoy an advanced degree of protection. State law requires that anglers who want to "possess or harvest" a tarpon must buy a tag for $50. During the 2011-12 fiscal year anglers purchased 375 tags but, according to the FWC, just six tarpon were kept.
Anglers who come to Florida in search of a world record need not worry. The International Game Fish Association has developed rules for anglers who want to release fish yet have their catches considered for world records. For example, measurements of length and girth can be calculated to give an estimated weight.
Send news to Terry Tomalin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (727) 893-8808.
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