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Lockout Alert

Breaking News:

Breaking our patience, that is.

The feds definitely plan to ban any and all fishing in more than a third of the reefs in Biscayne National Park.

No catch and release, no trolling, no casting to that suddenly showing cobia. Sit on your hands and get outta there.

This recurring closure nightmare now pops up in the Biscayne National Park's new General Management Plan, for a park fathered by the beloved congressman Dante Fascell, who loved his own fishing and that of his fellow citizens in Miami.

Nowadays, Dante's principles and leadership have been commandeered by non-elected bureaucrats who have little to no regard for recreational fishing. Ban it all.

The planned “marine reserve” is to cover 10,000 acres of fishy “hard bottom” east of Elliott Key out to the boundary of the park in about 60 feet of water. It may not be the very best fishing waters in Florida but is home to literally hundreds of species.

The thought of cobia brought back a memory of founding Editor Vic Dunaway and I skimming over these very waters after an uneventful day offshore. “I just saw about six sharks back there,” I announced with little enthusiasm. Vic quickly throttled back and soon corrected my fish ID skills. “Those are cobia,” he said as he grabbed my rod.

Soon, we had two on, landed one and returned home with the trip-saving fish.

The idea that that experience would be barred now, largely at the hands of unelected greenhorns not long out of school, is disconcerting at best.

Contributing Editor Doug Kelly provides more details on the planned lockout in this issue's On the Conservation Front.

A couple of biologists had hatched the no-fishing zone idea about 30 years ago. I remember it well. Their claim was, and is, that after to you eliminate fishing in one area, the waters next door will propagate wildly. Didn't happen that way.

If fish stocks are down, there are a better ways to revive them without causing grief to so many thousands of families, as well as to the economy.

One better way, now proven beyond doubt, is to enact whatever size, season and bag limits may be necessary. No large-scale catches. Then, as a last resort if need be, put in some closed periods.

We've used this traditional approach for snook, redfish, trout, snapper, pompano and others. Works just fine, though the closure artists wouldn't think of acknowledging standard fishery management's successes.

Of course, our lawmakers could come to the rescue at this point, but, alas, they are mostly dedicated to indoor pursuits, and fundraising for themselves.

The best thing we can do, it would seem, is to re-kindle fishing interests among younger folks and treat many of our office holders the way we do with diapers. Change them often, and for the same reason.

Karl Wickstrom

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