Hogfish conservation measures and boundaries effective Aug. 24

A new management boundary and several conservation measures for hogfish will go into effect in state and federal waters starting Aug. 24. State changes were approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its November 2016 meeting.

Hogfish is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Florida Keys and east Florida. Federal law requires the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to end overfishing immediately and implement a 10-year rebuilding plan.

Because most hogfish off the Keys and east Florida are taken in Florida state waters, consistency with regulations approved in Atlantic federal waters is necessary to rebuild the stock.

The new management boundary between the Keys/east Florida and Gulf stocks will be at 25 degrees 9 minutes north latitude (a line due west of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida). Starting Aug. 24, hogfish north of Cape Sable will be managed as Gulf hogfish, and hogfish south of that line, around the tip of Florida and up the Atlantic coast, will be managed as Atlantic hogfish. Prior to this change, the boundary for hogfish was a line following U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys. This new management boundary line is closer to where Gulf and Atlantic hogfish stocks naturally separate as determined by a recent genetic study.

Hogfish -map

Other approved conservation changes effective Aug. 24 include:

  • Lowering the Atlantic recreational daily bag limit from five to one fish per harvester.
  • Setting an Atlantic recreational harvest season of May 1 through Oct. 31.
  • Increasing the Atlantic recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 16 inches fork length.
  • Increasing the Gulf recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 14 inches fork length.
  • Setting the minimum importation and sale size limit to 14 inches fork length statewide.

The size limit increase and recreational season will allow Atlantic hogfish more opportunities to spawn before entering the fishery and, along with a bag limit change, will help rebuild the Keys/east Florida hogfish population to sustainable levels.

The size limit change for Gulf state waters is also consistent with regulations for federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf stock is healthy, but stakeholders requested an increase in the minimum size limit as a conservation measure to give hogfish additional spawning opportunities.

Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.

Catch a Florida Memory with 10-year-old Katlyn Paul

Summer may be coming to a close, but for 10-year-old Katlyn Paul, this summer was one she’ll never forget. Katlyn submitted 10 different species to the 71-species Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List, one of three of our Catch a Florida Memory Saltwater Recognition programs. This qualified her for the first tier of the Saltwater Fish Life List Club.

Katlyn Triggerfish

Katlyn with her Saltwater Reel Big Fish qualifying gray triggerfish.

Shortly after, she also submitted a gray triggerfish to the Saltwater Reel Big Fish program, becoming the first angler to qualify for this species. In recognition of her efforts, she received FWC Catch a Florida Memory prize packs including T-shirts and certificates for each achievement. She will also receive two entries into a quarterly raffle drawing for fishing gear such as rods, reels and landing nets.

Katlyn’s love of the water runs deep, and working on her life list is more about the experience than the recognition.

 “It’s really cool to go out with friends and see what’s out there,” Katlyn said.  “It’s fun to see the water react,” referring to the varying sea conditions and changes in water coloration of nearby St. Andrews Bay and Gulf of Mexico. 

Katlyn

 Katlyn has crossed a number of fish off her life list including this ladyfish.

Katlyn caught her first fish, a gag grouper, when she was just three, and she was hooked. Today, she is still going strong, enjoying quality time with her dad, Devin, and getting to explore the marine environment around her. She’s even expressed an interest in pursuing a career in marine biology, following her passion to explore the unknown creatures of the deep.

The Saltwater Fish Life List was developed as one way to encourage anglers to target a diversity of species, and according to Devin, that’s exactly what the life list has done for his family.

“We’re chasing species that we wouldn’t go for otherwise; species that I haven’t fished for in years,” he said.

To date, Katlyn has crossed spotted seatrout, ladyfish, dolphinfish, black sea bass, gag grouper, gray snapper, red drum, red snapper, Spanish mackerel and hardhead catfish off of her life list. Since she submitted her 10-fish application to the Saltwater Angler Recognition Program, she has also added a lane snapper, greater amberjack and her Saltwater Reel Big Fish qualifying gray triggerfish to her list of accomplishments.

Can you catch up with Katlyn? Join her in participating not only in the Saltwater Fish Life List Club program, but also the FWC’s two other Saltwater Angler Recognition programs: Saltwater Reel Big Fish, which celebrates memorable-sized catches, and Saltwater Grand Slams, which awards anglers for catching three different specified species within a 24-hour period.

You can also keep track of Katlyn’s pursuits on the Catch a Florida Memory Facebook page, External Website Facebook.com/CatchaFLMemory.

Katlyn -snapper

Katlyn holding up a red snapper she caught.

For more information

Participate today External Website by visiting CatchaFloridaMemory.com. Anglers do not have to harvest their fish to be eligible for prizes, and are encouraged to use proper fish handling techniques when practicing catch-and-release.

 

FWC adds new category to Florida Saltwater Fishing Records program

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in collaboration with the International Game Fish Association, maintains state all-tackle records for the heaviest marine fishes caught in Florida waters, including 77 species in both conventional tackle and fly-fishing categories.

Recently, a new category for kingfish (whiting), which includes species in the Menticirrhus family, provides an additional challenge for anglers. Kingfish (whiting) caught after June 30, 2017, are eligible for state record submission. Also, three new Florida saltwater state records were approved in the past year, including a 33-pound, 8-ounce almaco jack caught by Thomas Milliren; a 6-pound, 3-ounce vermilion snapper caught by Dawn M. Delisle; and a 26-pound horse-eye jack caught by Sharon Kartrude Pryel (view current records at CatchaFloridaMemory.com by clicking on “Programs,” “Florida Saltwater Fishing Records” then “2016-2017.”)

Pryelwithjack

Sharon Kartrude Pryel recently caught the state record for horse-eye jack with this 26-pounder.

Several new saltwater world records were caught in Florida in the past year, including a junior record for permit; all-tackle records for black grouper, mahogany snapper and yellowtail snapper; and line-class records for Florida pompano, spotted seatrout, gray snapper, black drum and red grouper. Visit IGFA.org External Website for a complete list of saltwater world records.

To qualify for the Florida Saltwater Fishing Records program, catches must be made according to FWC and IGFA angling rules. The application must be accompanied by line or tippet samples and photographs as specified in the IGFA world record requirements. Species that pose a problem of identity require determination by an ichthyologist or qualified fishery biologist. Visit the International Game Fish Association website, IGFA.org, External Website to learn more about requirements.

Currently, there are a number of fish in the Florida Saltwater Fishing Records program with records not yet claimed including two in the conventional tackle category and 26 vacancies in the fly-fishing tackle category. The IGFA verifies state records in Dania Beach. For more information on the Florida Saltwater Fishing Records program, visit CatchaFloridaMemory.com and click on “Programs” and “Florida Saltwater Fishing Records” or contact AnglerRecognition@MyFWC.com.

Florida Saltwater Fishing Records are part of FWC’s Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs. Anglers can gain recognition for catching record-sized fish and by participating in other programs, including Saltwater Fish Life List, Saltwater Reel Big Fish and Saltwater Grand Slams. These programs recognize anglers for their fishing efforts while encouraging them to target a diversity of species and strengthening marine fisheries conservation ethics. Programs are free, available year-round, and open to all ages and experience levels. To learn more, visit CatchaFloridaMemory.com. External Website

Update: Gulf County bay scallop season opening remains postponed

The bay scallop season off Gulf County remains postponed due to a naturally occurring algae bloom in St. Joseph Bay. The season postponement will continue until scallop samples test safe for human consumption.

The bay scallop season off Gulf County was slated to open July 25, but this season was postponed in all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff are sampling scallops from within the bay multiple days a week, but at the time of this news release those samples continue to be unsafe for human consumption.

All other areas currently open for bay scallop recreational harvest remain unaffected, including the popular scalloping areas of St. Marks, Steinhatchee and Crystal River.

This algae bloom should not impact other recreational activities on St. Joseph Bay.

In order to reopen the bay scallop season off Gulf County, scallop samples taken at least seven days apart throughout the bay must test as safe for human consumption. If this occurs, the FWC will work quickly to reopen the season, but will continue to sample scallops on a weekly basis.

FWC staff is coordinating with the Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. All agencies will continue to provide support and assistance as necessary, take all algal blooms seriously, and will continue to respond quickly and effectively to ensure the health and safety of Floridians, visitors and our natural resources.

FDACS had also issued a closure for the harvest of all clams (including pen shells), mussels and oysters in St. Joseph Bay. 

The FWC and FDACS will continue sampling and testing scallops and other shellfish in the bay to determine when they are safe for consumption, and will continue to work with the local community to determine options on the remainder of the season.

More information will be issued once a season opening date has been determined and that date will be posted on the bay scallop webpage which can be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.” For information on reopenings of clam, mussel or oyster harvest visit the FDACS website at FreshFromFlorida.com External Website and search “Shellfish Harvesting Area Information” in the search bar at the top right, select the search result with the same name, then click on “open/close status.”

This algae bloom is not related to red tide (Karenia brevis), does not harm scallops directly and shouldn’t cause scallop population declines. While scallops and other shellfish, such as clams, oysters or pen shells, may appear healthy, they should not be consumed until FWC and FDACS have issued new statements opening the seasons.

 2017 Bay Scallop Season Map

ABOUT PSEUDO-NITZSCHIA:

Pseudo-nitzschia, Adobe PDF the organism responsible for the bloom and delayed opening of the season, is a naturally occurring microscopic alga that in some cases can produce domoic acid, which can negatively impact marine mammals and seabirds and can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans if contaminated shellfish, including mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops, are consumed. ASP can cause both gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and upset stomach, as well as neurological issues such as short-term memory loss. Domoic acid has been confirmed in seawater and scallop samples from St. Joseph Bay. Domoic acid does not impact finfish directly, but fish should be rinsed well, filleted and skinned prior to being eaten. The best way to protect yourself is to heed closure warnings and not consume shellfish from the closed areas.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ASP, contact your primary care provider. You may also want to contact the Florida Poison Control Hotline at 800-222-1222. For Department of Health questions, call 850-245-4250.

Spiny lobster regular recreational and commercial season starts Aug. 6

The two-day sport season last week successfully wrapped up, and lobster lovers everywhere are now getting ready for the regular recreational and commercial season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, 2018. This economically important season generates more than $1 million through the sales of more than 200,000 spiny lobster permits annually.

“Based on what we saw during the two-day mini-season last month, we look forward to successful recreational harvests as well as ample opportunities for Florida’s robust commercial fishing industry,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski.

Planning on catching some of these tasty crustaceans? Here is what you need to know before you go.

Where to harvest

Know where you can go. Lobster harvest is always prohibited in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations,” “Lobster” and “Regulations for Recreational Harvest and Lobster Information for Monroe County” to learn more about areas in Monroe County External Website that are open to spiny lobster harvest.

Bag limits

Stick to the bag and possession limits so there will be enough lobsters for all your friends and family. The daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person for all Florida waters.

Size limit

No one wants a small lobster for dinner, and recently approved legislation specifies that each undersize spiny lobster found in a violator’s possession may be charged as a separate offense. In addition, recreational or commercial violators with 100 or more undersized spiny lobsters are to be charged with a third-degree felony. Remember to always check the size of lobster you catch. If the carapace length is not larger than 3 inches, it may not be harvested (see image on how to measure spiny lobster). For divers, measuring devices are required and lobsters must be measured while they are in the water.

SaltMeasureLobster.jpg

Egg-bearers

To protect the next generation and your future chances to have lobster for dinner, harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Egg-bearing lobsters have hundreds of thousands of eggs attached under the tail that are easily visible. While most lobsters have completed reproduction by the start of the fishing season, finding lobsters with eggs is common in July and August.

Bully netting

Bully netting at night is a popular method of harvest. Keep in mind, bright lights and loud noise on the water late at night can be disruptive. Keep lights directed down and avoid shining lights at houses along the shoreline. Keep sound levels low when near shoreline residences. Bully netters have a right to fish, but should be courteous of others by minimizing disruptions and not trespassing on private property.

Whole condition

Bring a cooler big enough to hold the entire lobster. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Also, do not take spiny lobster with any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush its shell.

Licenses and permits

Make sure to have the proper paperwork. A recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit are required to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License or you may purchase your license today at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. External Website

Invasive lionfish

Do double duty while you are in the water and remove invasive lionfish. These nonnative species are often found in the same areas as spiny lobster, and they negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Help keep the lionfish population under control by removing them from Florida waters. If you plan to take lionfish with a spear, be aware of no-spearing zones before planning your spearfishing trips. Learn more about spearing rules by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Spearing” or “Monroe County Spearfishing.” Visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish to learn more or to participate in the Lionfish Challenge reward program.

Diving safely

Always remember: Safety first. Divers, even those who wade in, should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device (red with a white diagonal stripe on a flag or buoy, for example) when in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators must slow to idle speed if they need to travel within 300 feet of a divers-down warning device in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel.

Divers-down warning symbols displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches. If you are using a flag, a stiffener is required to keep it unfurled, it must be displayed from the highest point of the vessel, must be visible from all directions and must be displayed only when divers are in the water. So when the divers are out of the water, don’t forget to take it down. Divers-down symbols towed by divers must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. More information on divers-down warning devices is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”

More

Additional information on recreational spiny lobster fishing, including how to measure spiny lobster, is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”

FWC conducts aquatic plant control on Lake Rousseau

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will conduct aquatic plant control on Lake Rousseau from Aug. 7 through Aug. 18, weather permitting. Lake Rousseau is part of the Withlacoochee River and is located in parts of Citrus, Levy and Marion counties, west of Dunnellon.

Invasive hydrilla will be treated only in boat trails, but water lettuce and water hyacinth will be treated throughout the lake.

Boat trails requiring hydrilla treatment to maintain navigation include County Trail C, Shoreline Trail south of County Trail C, Hamic Estates Trail, River Retreats Trail, Old Mill Trail and Lighthouse Cove.

Biologists anticipate treating about 100 acres of hydrilla and 50 acres of water lettuce and water hyacinth with herbicides approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“There will be no restrictions on recreational activities, such as fishing or swimming, during the treatment period,” said Bruce Jaggers, an FWC invasive plant management biologist.  “Any edible fish caught that are legal to keep may be consumed.”  

There is a seven-day restriction for using water from treated areas for drinking or for animal consumption. However, there are no restrictions for other uses of treated water such as irrigating turf, ornamental plants and crops.

Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant spread easily by boats throughout Florida’s lakes and rivers. While recreational anglers and waterfowl hunters may see some benefits from hydrilla, there are other potential impacts to consider including negative impacts to beneficial native habitat, navigation, flood control, potable and irrigation water supplies, recreation and the aesthetic qualities of lakes. The FWC strives to balance these needs while managing hydrilla.

Go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on “Invasive Plants” to find out more about invasive plant management, including “Frequently Asked Questions.”

For more information, contact Bruce Jaggers at 352-726-8622.

Spotted seatrout: Input needed, 2 more workshops added

Do you fish for spotted seatrout? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has been hearing concerns from anglers about the spotted seatrout population and wants to know what you are seeing.

At these workshops, FWC staff will discuss current stock assessment results and whether fishers are happy with management of this species or if further restrictions are appropriate. Workshops have already been held in Carrabelle, Panama City, Pensacola and Cedar Key.

Upcoming workshops, including two additions in Steinhatchee and Tallahassee, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. local time:

  • Aug. 1: Crystal River, City Council Chambers, 123 NW Highway 19.
  • Aug. 2: St. Petersburg, FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 Eighth Ave. SE.
  • Aug. 3: Naples, South Regional Library, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway.
  • Aug. 7: Jacksonville, Jacksonville Public Library Southeast, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd.
  • Aug. 8: Melbourne, Brevard County Government Center, Space Coast Room, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way.
  • Aug. 9: Fort Pierce, St. Lucie Commission Chambers, Third Floor Meeting Room 303, 2300 Virginia Ave.
  • NEW: Aug. 16: Steinhatchee, Community Center, 1013 Riverside Drive.
  • NEW: Aug. 17: Tallahassee, LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library, Program Room B, 200 W. Park Ave.

Feedback from these workshops will help staff determine whether or not further management restrictions are needed to provide the public with the fishing experience they want for this species.

If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, submit comments online by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. Additional details and updates for these meetings will be posted at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops”).

 

 

Reminder: Goliath grouper workshops start July 31

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting several goliath grouper public workshops throughout the state starting July 31 to gather input on goliath grouper management, including the possibility of a limited harvest in Florida state waters. Fifteen workshops are scheduled in total across the state in July, August and October.

Share your input and learn more about the current status of goliath grouper by attending one of these workshops (scheduled 5 to 8 p.m. local time):

  • July 31: Lake Worth, Lantana Road Branch Library, 4020 Lantana Road.
  • Aug. 1: Key West, Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel, 3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
  • Aug. 2: Marathon, Hyatt Place Marathon/Florida Keys, 1996 Overseas Highway.
  • Aug. 3: Key Largo, Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Highway.
  • Aug. 8: Crystal River, Plantation on Crystal River, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail.
  • Aug. 9: Carrabelle, Franklin County Senior Citizens Center, 201 NW Ave. F.
  • Aug 16: Pensacola, Sanders Beach – Corinne Jones Resource Center, 913 S. I St.
  • Aug. 17: Panama City, Bland Conference Center, 4750 Collegiate Drive.
  • Oct. 9: Jacksonville, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd.
  • Oct. 10: Titusville, American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, 6350 Horizon Drive.
  • Oct. 11: Stuart, Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave.
  • Oct. 12: Davie, Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road.
  • Oct. 16: Pinellas Park, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, 9501 U.S. Highway 19 N.
  • Oct. 17: Port Charlotte, The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St.
  • Oct. 18: Naples, Collier County Public Library - South Regional, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway.

If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, submit comments online by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. Staff is working on a virtual workshop that should be available online in the near future. Additional details and updates to these meetings will be posted at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”)

Lake Trafford restoration yields great bass fishing

Immokalee area lake restoration leads to production of trophy-sized bass

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has confirmed a 10-pound, 7-ounce largemouth bass was caught on Lake Trafford and approved in the TrophyCatch program. Lake Trafford, in Collier County, has received national recognition for its resurging bass fishing made possible by ongoing restoration projects.

The nearly 26-inch-long largemouth bass was caught by Steve Dial on an artificial lure on June 25. This is the first Trophy Club submission from Lake Trafford into TrophyCatchExternal Website FWC’s award-winning catch, document and release program. 

While reports of trophy-sized bass catches are less common during the summer, this fish is no fluke. Recent FWC sampling has documented excellent growth rates for abundant bass in Lake Trafford. 

“With trophy bass reported more frequently around the spawning season, I’m really excited for what the coming season may produce,” said Barron Moody, FWC regional fisheries administrator. “We can also confirm the presence of an even larger bass in the lake – our biologists tagged and released a bass weighing more than 11 pounds during routine sampling as part of our trophy bass tagging study.”

Highlighted in Bassmaster Magazine External Website in August 2016, 1,500-acre Lake Trafford’s history of devastating fish kills and unhealthy habitat is no more. It can now boast of quality populations of black crappie and largemouth bass – all thanks to a partnership between the determined citizens of Collier County, the South Florida Water Management District – Big Cypress Basin, the FWC and others.

For more information, email Barron Moody at Barron.Moody@MyFWC.com.

Drawdown for Karick Lake Fish Management Area supports bass conservation and habitat management

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is partnering with the Florida Forest Service and Aquatic Habitat Restoration/Enhancement Section to conduct a full renovation of Karick Lake Fish Management Area in Okaloosa County. The agency began releasing water July 13 for a complete drawdown.

This renovation is to improve fish habitat and balance the largemouth bass population. A full drawdown will allow for the aeration and consolidation of organic muck deposits that result from the natural aging of reservoirs, thus improving fish habitat and natural production for fish food organisms.

While the lake is down, structural habitat will be installed in the lake bed and maintenance will be performed on the dam and water control structure. Once water has been returned to the lake, it will be re-stocked to provide a balanced fish community.

Fishing will be permitted while water is being drained from the lake, however access to the lake bed is prohibited. Unstable substrate exposed as the lake drains presents a hazard to individuals attempting to traverse it. Vehicles are not permitted on the dam or fishing fingers.

For the duration of the project, campgrounds and hiking trails surrounding the lake will remain open to the public. Hurricane and Bear lakes are both located on the Blackwater River State Forest and provide ample fishing opportunities within easy travelling distances from the Karick Lake campgrounds.

For more information about this project, email Neil Branson at Neil.Branson@MyFWC.com.