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Pinch an Inch

Pinch an Inch
Pinch an Inch

Let the pinching begin, I'm afraid.


You probably haven't heard about it, but the state is embarking on a new way for you to measure fish to see if they're legal to keep.

Starting July 1, you are supposed to pinch the tails together when measuring those fish governed by “total length” limits. Until now, the measurement has been down the midline to a line connecting the unpinched tail tips.

The net result is that many fish that are just short under the outgoing method will find themselves headed for the cooler.

That's a shame, many believe, because it hardly seems desirable to legalize smaller fish at this juncture in conservation.

For snook, the new pinch method could add an inch or more to a fish's length. Partly offsetting this factor, the pinch would put a 34-incher, under present terms, over the max, assuming the angler pinches.

At this writing, the state is organizing hurry-up hearings to consider raising the snook minimum from 26 to 27 inches and the max from 34 to 35, to compensate.

The pinching is to be required for all total length measuring. But it's feared there will be confusion, or worse, in the transition. Law enforcement officials may well be reluctant to make cases.

Fish measured by “fork length” will not be affected, at least in theory. No pinching the forks.

There are 13 forks and twice that many total-length species, so it's likely that there will be erroneously squeezed fork tails.

Regarding some of the total-length species which are going to result in lighter fish in the box, state officials plan to adjust many size limits to make up for the effect. A few of the characters who will lose some of their short-status are yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, redfish and sheepshead, not to mention that pinched snook.

So why the pinching anyway?

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held workshops on the measuring methods and concluded that federal authorities and some other jurisdictions allow the pinch system, and therefore the state should as well.

But some of us, including former fisheries chair Dr. Tom Fraser, object to the pinch method. If change we must, then we'd strongly recommend one fool-proof method for all species:

Simply measure on the centerline to the fork or end of tail.

Florida's immense fisheries, larger than many states combined, could thus lead the way in establishing a clear-cut way of measuring that would likely spread.

But, for now at least, prepare to pinch.

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