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Red Tide toll prompts state to limit some fishing to catch-and-release

Snook, redfish and sea trout were hit hard by the algae bloom

For 16 months, a Red Tide algae bloom hammered Florida’s waterways and beaches, killing fish, manatees and other sea life. As a result, last year state wildlife officials required anglers in this region who were going after snook, redfish and sea trout to release what they caught.

That regulation was set to expire on May 31. But on Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed with a staff recommendation to prolong the regulation requiring catch-and-release for another year. That means it would continue through June 1, 2021.

The area where anglers are not allowed to catch and keep those fish runs from the Hernando-Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County, including the entirety of Tampa Bay.

Such a ban is necessary to give those species a chance to recover from the massive losses they suffered during the algae bloom, wildlife biologists said.

Related: Red Tide touches all three Florida coasts

“Recent fisheries monitoring data suggest management changes may be needed to ensure a continued recovery from the 2017-2019 Red Tide events,” state marine fisheries management director Jessica McCawley wrote in a memo to fish and wildlife commissioners.