Some of my best friends may want to shoot me for this column (they’ll need to get in line).
But I really do think we’ve gradually and hopelessly messed up snook regulations, though with the best of intentions.
What we now have might be called The Great Snook Imbroglio.
Under the latest changes for this premier gamefish, the bag limit will be kept at zero for Gulf snook even though on Sept. 1 the Atlantic side fish become available for dinner as part of a one-fish limit. (But the opening doesn’t apply to Key Largo or the rest of the Keys and Flamingo.)
Just weeks ago, these adult snook were caught on video by student P.J. Peters at Jupiter Inlet. Similar congregations of the species, numbering in the hundreds, have been observed regularly at other inlets and places.
Meanwhile, the ever-shortened slot limit, an inch different for each coast, with different closure months when applicable, cause confusion that only someone dealing with the species daily might (might) sort through. You may recall that we told of an officer preparing to issue a citation based on rules from the wrong coast.
Still, many anglers don’t much care about the recent closure extension in their zeal to protect, or perhaps over-protect, snook. “I don’t keep any of them anyway,” is a common position of some snook guides and linesider devotees. These folks often support any and all added restrictions.
That no-take feeling prevailed at the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (see On the Conservation Front), although state biologists had reported to it that snook populations are not threatened and a re-opening is warranted.
Commissioners, however, bought the well-spoken claims of many who insist that snook stocks are “way, way off.” I do respect these folks’ views. But over my 40-plus years on the scene, I’ve got to think snook are doing extremely well and can certainly handle the smallest-ever one-fish limit with no deleterious effect.
The scientists agree.
At any rate, I commend the commission for its sincerity and dedication but suggest it take a deep breath, relax and overhaul the snook engine to provide simplicity and ease of public understanding and effective enforcement.
Here’s a post-Imbroglio goal:
Keep the same bag limit, one, for both coasts.
Bring back the 26-34-inch slot, everywhere.
Retain the 4 ½ months of closure.
Certainly that would maintain a solid, successful fishery.
Well, start shooting. And give us your take on it.