All inshore recreational anglers should be on alert.

FWC researchers determined that higher spawning potential ratios (SPRs) for redfish and seatrout species allowed a relaxing of regulations. But packaged alongside logical seatrout proposals are overwhelming others that many recreational fishermen have called “disastrous.”

At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting in Key Largo on November 16 – 17, commissioners will consider whether to increase the redfish recreational daily bag limit from one to two fish in the northern regions of Florida, and to allow a year-round recreational take of spotted seatrout. No complaints there, say a majority of Florida’s fishermen.

But devastating new proposals would allow commercial fishermen to expand the three-month commercial season to five months, double their commercial boat limit, and to sell trout catches year-round. One other detail would allow commercial takers to keep a “bycatch allowance of 75 fish using a beach or haul seine net.”

Key considerations at the FWC meeting:

  • Staff recommends extending the commercial season from three months to five (or six) months in all regions: June-November in northeast; June-October southwest; May-September in southeast; and September- January in northwest.
  • Staff recommends allowing the sale of spotted seatrout year-round.
  • Staff recommends a vessel limit of 150 fish with at least two licensed fishermen on board.
  • Staff recommends to create a bycatch allowance of 75 fish for commercial fishermen using a beach or haul seine.
  • Currently, commercial seatrout regulations include a slot limit of 15 – 24 inches Total Length with a daily boat limit of 75 fish per person or per vessel, whichever is less. The season runs from Sept. 1 ­ May 31. Other rules include castnet or hook-and-line gear only, simultaneous possession of gill nets and seatrout prohibited, and purchase and sale prohibited after Sept. 5.

    Many anglers question the potential changes in commercial regulations. Why? Seatrout are not a popular species to buy—many commercial fish houses don’t even sell them. In general, seatrout are considered wormy and have soft flesh. Plus, it’s the most-popular family-level fish in Florida inshore waters. The public tends to catch their own seatrout if they want to eat one.

    Florida anglers have seen the upswing of redfish and seatrout stocks throughout the last decade. Strong bag limits, slot limits and seasons for recreational anglers have allowed fishermen to catch more fish from their favorite flats and creeks. But the top reason anglers have seen increased numbers is because of nominal commercial fishing pressure. The commercial Net Ban in November of 1994 may have been the biggest reason of all; now seine nets may soon be legal gear to take seatrout.

    A strong-minded number of anglers are headed down to the FWC meeting to try to stop the proposals from passing, with several recreational fishing groups represented. Find out what Florida Sportsman members are saying about this hot topic here and here.

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