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Giving Our Recreational Kingfish to Commercial Fisheries?

By Karl Wickstrom

Recreational Kingfish to Commercial FisheriesGulf kingfish stock is producing whoppers like this 65-pounder at a 2016 Wild West tourney. Talk of increasing commercial landings by "transferring" rec allocation has kingfish anglers feeling uneasy.

An old saying among recreational fishermen, a good one, goes like this: "Let's release this one and let him fight again another day for someone else."

But shall we release it only to have the fish taken, frozen and sold on the commercial market for peanuts?

That latter scenario, in essence, is a switcheroo idea now being floated by fishing managers who seem to get nervous if every last fish under a "quota" isn't boxed.

In this case, we're talking about king mackerel, whose numbers are considered fairly stable but not wildly so.

The commercial fishing industry claims that recreational anglers did not take their alloted number of kings. The suggested answer? Assign a significant percentage of non-caught rec kings to next year's commercial haul.

"That just doesn't feel right," says Editor Jeff Weakley, who caught and released a number of kings off Sarasota, as part of his non-commercial angling. "Do we want to convert these rec catches to commercial, in effect?"

I couldn't agree more, especially when you consider the likelihood that commercial takes are underestimated and recreationals are over guesstimated.

At any rate, from this perspective, it seems a little crazy to think of Jeff's kingfish releases as fish to be added to the commercial catch quota. For too many managers, a fish swimming free in the wild is "going to waste."

Where do they think those 50-pounders caught in tournaments and elsewhere come from? Many of those smokers no doubt had been released themselves in past times.

And surely there is considerable value in having more spawning fish at work out there, adding to our quality of life in so many different ways.

The socio-economic value of a king mackerel caught and released on a family level, not for sale, is figured at ten times that of one taken to market.

So why even think of equating one with the other?

Transferring part of the rec allowance to the for-sale department is a switcheroo that acts like a form of punishment for what is good behavior.

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine February 2017

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