FWC will be meeting to vote on updated regulation changes for flounder on Dec. 16-17, send in your comments

flounder fishing regulations

Charlotte Quirk, joined by her hubby and Goose the pup, hoisting two panhandle beauties. What do you think about the trends in the flounder fishery?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (maybe a very flat rock?), you know flounder have been on the decline. Turns out an FWC stock status update bears that out. The commission has been working on several management updates, some of which we think are wise, others we feel smell a bit too much like fishy concessions to sellers. As with red snapper and certain groupers, public angling seasons are sometimes curtailed to make room for market fishing. Managers often brush this stuff off by pointing to “small commercial fisheries” (flounder landings are said to be 90 percent recreational), but Florida citizens are likely to wonder next fall, when commercial boats return to the docks brimming with flounders during “closed season.”

Anyway, here’s what the FWC is slated to vote on, on Dec. 16.

Italics are ours.

> Increase the flounder minimum size to 14 inches, from the current 12 inches. We think that’s a good idea. Not much meat on the little ones, and the extra two inches ensures more reach maturity. True for both southern and Gulf flounder.

> Decrease recreational daily bag limit to 5 fish (it has been 10 for many years). We also think that’s a good idea…

> Establish an Oct. 15-Nov. 30 recreational season closure. Meh. If it’s needed, then okay, but there are many closures already on the calendars, and the odd mid-month period is sure to generate confusion. FWC last year added a Nov. 1-Dec. 31 seatrout closure in Central East Florida that many anglers still aren’t fully aware of (plus, snook closes Dec. 15 there—that’s a lotta dates!). Season and area closures should be a last resort as a way of managing recreational anglers looking for a sunny weekend.

> Season commercial trip and vessel limits when using allowable gear of 150 fish except from Oct. 15-Nov. 30 and 50 fish from Oct. 15-Nov. 30. Better than the current commercial limit, which is unlimited! But one person keeping 150 flounder per day? And “only” 50 during the month and a half when no one else is permitted to keep even one (a prime season, too)? Sheesh.

> Modify incidental bycatch limit for non-allowable gear to 50 fish (it was 50 pounds).

> Create a federal waters trawl bycatch limit of 150 fish except from Oct. 15-Nov. 30 and 50 fish from Oct. 15-Nov. 30. These last two are scripted to account for flounder bycatch in shrimp trawls or other commercial gear. They come up dead, may as well go to market? Underscores the dirty side of some fisheries, but there you go.

> Extend FWC flounder regulations into federal waters. Usually a good bet for any species, to clear up confusion, and of course a great many flounder are caught on reefs beyond state waters limits (3 miles on the Atlantic and 9 miles on the Gulf).

You may comment on the FWC flounder recommendations live during the call-in meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Or, you may submit comments in advance by 5 p.m. Dec. 11. The FWC is very good about soliciting public comment. Go to MyFWC.com and pull down the “About Us” tab and you’ll see link for “Tell Us What You Think” or “Rule Change Comments.

There are some other important issues on the agenda for that Dec. 16-17 FWC meeting, including a draft proposal to close some popular fishing reefs off Key West (yikes!), a review of shark populations and depredation issues, an overview of lobster fisheries, and an update on Chronic Wasting Disease Prevention Measures (vital to protect Florida’s deer population).

We’ll try to bring more updates in advance of the meeting, but until then, you can see the agenda and background materials at MyFWC.com: Find “Commission Meetings” under “About Us.”

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