|Catch of the Week
Shane Johnson caught and released this 22-inch flounder on shrimp.
BRADENTON – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has come up with a draft of the Gulf gag grouper recreational season. If approved it will make most Gulf state waters consistent with the current federal season. The FWCC is also considering designating some species game fish or sport fish. The size limit for Atlantic bass has now increased from 10 inches to 11 inches. Captain Rachel Cato recommends fishing moving water with sardines or shrimp for the best fishing results.
2013 Gulf gag grouper recreational season draft rule discussed
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously decided Wednesday, Dec. 5, on a draft 2013 Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season. After discussing several options and hearing public testimony from 26 people, Commissioners at their meeting in Apalachicola chose draft options that, if approved in February, will make most Gulf state waters consistent with the current federal season, with the exception of a four-county region.
- The current proposed federal season for Gulf gag grouper is slated to start July 1 and end when the annual catch target (the number of fish that can be harvested for that year within the rebuilding plan) is expected to be met, which will likely be sometime in November or early December. The federal season ending date should be finalized in spring 2013.
- The Commissioner’s proposal included an April 1 through June 30 season in state waters off the counties of Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin. According to the proposal, the four-county region will not open during the July 1 through November/December federal season. Monroe County is excluded from the Gulf of Mexico season because it is included in the Atlantic season for gag grouper.
- The Commission asked staff to work with federal fishery managers in gathering data on the effect this proposal may have on the length of the federal season and bring back this information to the February Commission meeting.
Other options considered by the Commission included full consistency with the federal season in all state waters, split seasons that would open in spring and winter, and regional seasons.
- The 2012 recreational gag grouper season was July 1 through Oct. 31 in all federal and most state waters with the exception of state waters off Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin counties, which were open April 1 through June 30 instead.
- Public comment on this draft rule can be sent to Marine@MyFWC.com or can be given by calling 850-487-0554.
Commission considering creating saltwater game fish, sport fish designations
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the possibility of creating saltwater game fish and sport fish designations at its Dec. 5 Commission meeting in Apalachicola. After public comment from 18 people and the Commissioners’ discussion, the FWC decided to approve the proposed draft rule about the designation. The Commission will possibly make a final decision on this measure at its February meeting in Orlando.
- While Florida has many recreationally important species, it does not have an official saltwater game fish or sport fish designation.
- Reasons for considering these changes include helping highlight and protect some of Florida’s premier recreational fish and encouraging anglers to adopt voluntary conservation practices such as catch-and-release. If adopted, these changes could lead to healthier fish populations and help Florida market its unique fishing opportunities to residents and visitors.
- At the meeting, staff presented the Commission with potential game fish and sport fish definitions and described how fish within these designations could be managed.
- Suggested parameters for game fish would include no commercial harvest, possession or sale.
- The sport fish designation would offer a higher level of protection than game fish by making selected species catch-and-release only, including no recreational harvest as well as no commercial harvest, possession or sale.
- Before moving forward with the proposal, the Commission decided to remove a parameter that would have limited gear to hook-and-line only for both designations. They also removed another parameter that was proposed for the game fish designation only that would have required captain and crew of for-hire vessels such as charter boats to have a bag limit of zero and not be allowed to take fish home for themselves.
- Which fish species will be included under the game fish or sport fish designations will not be decided at the February Commission meeting. If game fish and sport fish designations are approved, staff will return to future meetings with suggestions for potential fish species candidates.
- Recreational fishing in Florida has a high cultural and economic value, and protecting Florida’s premier recreational fish is a priority of the Commission.
- Public comment can be sent to Marine@MyFWC.com. Staff members are also hosting webinars on Dec. 10 and 12 to gather public comment. These meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. To participate in the webinar, visit http://fwc.adobeconnect.com/mfm/. There is a cap of 100 participants that can be logged into the online webinar at once. This is on a first-come basis. To give everyone a chance to participate, please do not attend both webinar sessions. Each webinar will cover the same topic.
- Voice-only access is also available for those without computer access. For questions about webinar access, please contact Carly Canion at 850-617-9627 or Carly.Canion@MyFWC.com. Learn more by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing – click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”
Atlantic black sea bass recreational, commercial changes approved
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made several changes to black sea bass management in Atlantic state waters at its Dec. 5 Commission meeting in Apalachicola. These changes will help rebuild the Atlantic black sea bass population for future generations of recreational and commercial fishers.
Changes, effective Feb. 1, 2013, include:
- Increasing the minimum size limit for commercial harvest from 10 to 11 inches total length and for recreational harvest from 12 to 13 inches total length;
- Changing the recreational bag limit from 15 to five fish per person;
- Requiring federal commercial endorsements and permits for the harvest of black sea bass using traps;
- Matching federal trap specifications and requirements, including requirements for trap construction, requiring traps to be set in waters north of Cape Canaveral and requiring traps to be removed from the water and brought back to shore at the conclusion of each trip.
- Black sea bass populations in the Atlantic are improving, but are undergoing overfishing, which means more fish are being removed from the water than is considered sustainable. Federal fishery managers made several recent changes to help continue to rebuild Atlantic black sea bass populations. The FWC-approved changes will align state management efforts with most current federal regulations for black sea bass.
Weekly Fishing Report by Capt. Rachel Nobbe Cato
Catching this week has been producing plenty of flounder for the dinner table, as well as some great photos with oversized fish. Still catching scaled sardines and thread sardines at the skyway fishing piers, although shrimp will also work. The trick to catching the fish is letting the fish eat a little longer, flounder will prove quite challenging.
Fishing moving water is the key to catching fish, chumming live bait entices snook and reds to eat. I haven't been fishing for snapper this week because I've been getting lots of flounder and dock fishing requests. Caught some last week when my sister was visiting with her husband from Germany. We enjoyed a ton of it grilled whole for dinner one night.
Look for the December edition of Onshore Offshore for some flounder fishing tips.
A ridge of high pressure will be over the waters through Monday with south to southwest flow across the area. This will allow abundant low level moisture to advect over the area which will make the waters prone to fog. A cold front will approach from the northwest and move across the eastern Gulf by midweek
Southwest winds around 10 knots. Bay and inland waters a light chop. Areas of fog in the morning. A slight chance of showers in the morning then a chance of showers in the afternoon. Monday night will bring south winds around 5 knots. Bay and inland waters smooth. A chance of showers.
Southwest winds around 10 knots. Bay and inland waters a light chop. A chance of showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms. Tuesday night will bring southwest winds around 10 knots diminishing to around 5 knots after midnight. Bay and inland waters a light chop. A chance of showers.
Southwest winds 5 to 10 knots then becoming west around 15 knots in the afternoon. Bay and inland waters a moderate chop. A chance of showers. Wednesday night will bring northwest winds around 15 knots. Bay and inland waters a moderate chop. A chance of showers.
Northeast winds around 15 knots. Bay and inland waters a moderate chop. A slight chance of showers.