Action in the lock-out zone

Government ponders closing areas to fishing

Just as he squashed a proposal to put striped bass back on the commercial market, he supported “personal use” fishing for stripers.

In Florida, officials still have a chance to defer action on prohibiting family-level angling in the west half of the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Our humble opinion is that the ban proposal is, frankly, a dumb idea based on ludicrous conclusions from badly flawed research.

We’ve just returned from a last fishing taste (though we hope it wasn’t) at the storied Loggerhead Key region. I’d say it’s the best bottom fishing in the state. There’s little pressure there, contrary to biologists’ claims.

At this writing, proposed fishing rules (the ban) are expected to come before the Fish and Wildlife Commission and Cabinet another time or two. See “Killing a Dream” Openers at www.floridasportsman.com.

While catching all the grouper and snapper we could desire, our excursion to the lock-out zone reminded us of another governmental debacle, the federal mismanagement of red grouper.

That gives you a hint as to what our most common bigger-fish catchwas. Red grouper.

Friend Doyle Cloud, who somehow had the hot rod, is shown with a keeper red grouper and mutton snapper, both highly abundant.

The federals, as you probably know, reduced the Gulf red grouper bag limit to one fish, and left the commercial tonnage unchanged.

The Gulf reduction to one red grouper is causing havoc. See On the Conservation Front this month.

Fewer than 100 commercials take 81 percent of the red grouper, while millions of non-commercial folks get the leftovers. And yet that recreational activity provides far more socioeconomic benefits to society.

The maldistribution goes beyond mere commercial influence; it goes to bogus weak science that produced a “big spike” in ‘04 catch estimates that made no sense to anyone.

There’s talk, just as there’s been talk for decades, of overhauling theway estimates are made. Certainly we must support the groups clamoringfor reform.

But the root cause of all these problems is the continuing inappropriate influence by market takers, notably on the federal level nowadays.

Florida, with a couple painful exceptions, has been on a solid conservation track for many years, proving that strict limits and carefully drawn regulations work just fine.