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Rule focuses on sea trout

The Florida Marine Fisheries Commission has approved a draft rule to manage the state's stressed spotted sea trout fishery. The rule would:

Prohibit the harvest of spotted sea trout from the Pinellas-Pasco county line to the Florida-Alabama border in January and February, and in all other waters in November and December.

Establish daily recreational bag limits of eight spotted sea trout from the Pinellas-Pasco line to the Florida-Alabama border and five spotted sea trout in all other state waters.

Establish a 15-inch minimum size and 20-inch maximum size. An angler could keep one fish of longer than 20 inches each day.

Allow the commercial harvest and sale of spotted sea trout in June, July and August only, with a 50-fish daily commercial vessel limit. Only the use of beach and haul seines, cast nets and hook-and-line gear would be allowed.

Prohibit any vessel with gill nets from having sea trout aboard.

The commission also directed its staff to draft a rule that would allow the harvest of red drum year round, eliminating the current March-May closed season. The draft rule also would eliminate the current 27-inch maximum size.

The commission next meets in August at Daytona Beach.

_ TERRY TOMALIN

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