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Knowing the Regs for 2013 – a New Year’s Resolution for Sportsmen (and Sportswomen)

I recently opened up the morning paper to see an outdoor writer laying out the rules for popular local species in an attempt to provide a good refresher for anglers going into the New Year. Unfortunately, several of the articulated rules were not quite accurate and one notable bag limit was flat out wrong. In my experience, the majority of law enforcement, outdoor writers, fishing guides and certainly recreational anglers don’t have a complete working knowledge of our saltwater fishing rules, and who can blame them? The current set of rules for state and federal waters is incredibly complex, even if stagnant. If one adds in the fact that many of the rules change with the wind, how can one possibly keep up?

In addition to anglers, hunters face similar issues. Prior to my recent foray into the world of hunting, I always assumed that hunting regulations would be much simpler than fishing regulations in that there aren’t that many species being targeted. However, I was wrong. With the various zones, phases, weapon and ammunition restrictions, not to mention the requirement to identify animals as to size, sex and other physical attributes to avoid making a mistake that there is no turning back from, hunting requires equal attention to the regulations. Hunters also face changing seasons, split seasons and other variations. As an aside, it has been an interesting experience talking to seasoned hunters who voice the same complaints as anglers about the lack of knowledge of hunting and game populations by the regulators.

Although I firmly believe that the regulations governing the use of our outdoor resources are too complex, they unfortunately only seem to be getting worse. Therefore, one can only attempt to study the regulations from a reliable source (or hire a lawyer). Below are links to some official sources of our regulations, with a short summary of what can be found there.

For a summary of Florida regulations, the FWC website is a good starting point. This is appropriate for generalized information about seasons, species, gear restrictions, etc. (although more specific rules are generally linked).

http://myfwc.com/about/rules-regulations/

For the actual rules and regulations relating to specific fishing or hunting regulations, one should read the specific text of the pertinent rule. Follow the link on FWC’s website or go to the link below.

https://www.flrules.org/Gateway/Department.asp?DeptID=68

One can also review notices of proposed rules in development at:

https://www.flrules.org/bigdoc/default.asp

In addition, there are certain statutes of interest to anglers and hunters (most notably Ch. 379). However, Ch. 327 (Vessel Safety) may also be of interest. Florida Statutes can be conveniently found at:

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/

Other links of interest for Florida issues are:

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?
Mode=Constitution&Submenu=3&Tab=statutes&CFID=279332435&CFTOKEN=34220667
(Florida’s Constitution which established the FWC)

http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/le/general-orders/ (FWC Law Enforcement General Orders setting for Law Enforcement Procedures for vessel stops, etc.)

One should also keep in mind that, while most rules regulating fishing and hunting are pre-empted by the state, there are local ordinances that can have an impact on hunting and fishing activities. Further, there are special acts of the legislature (most of which are quite old) that regulate certain specific geographic areas.

Federal Waters:

For federal rules the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council websites are good starting points. However, they don’t do nearly as good of a job as the FWC in providing information. Those websites are:

http://www.safmc.net/FishIDandRegs/RegulationsbySpecies/tabid/248/Default.aspx

http://www.gulfcouncil.org/fishing_regulations/index.php

To review the actual rules (which are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations), the following link will be helpful (the link is to the pertinent parts of Title 50, but other rules may be of interest too):

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx? SID=3fd450639e04072b698de1e5d338b323&c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title50/50cfrv12_02.tpl

For proposed federal rules, please see:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!home;tab=search

Hopefully the above provides a little bit of a roadmap to verify that you have the correct rules and regulations for whatever is being targeted. Every sportsman or sportswoman should do the best they can, but most importantly have fun when on the water and in the woods!

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