Fishing report: FWC proposes changes

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) met in Gainesville on Wednesday.  During this meeting, the commission approved regulation changes for redfish and cobia in Florida’s state waters.

One aspect of the redfish rule proposals will impact our area considerably, and it came as a surprise to many.

The FWC took measures to tighten redfish protection on one end—then they relaxed protection in our region on the other, more frequently relevant end.

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The proposed changes include:

  • Breaking up its three current redfish management regions into nine zones.
  • Prohibiting captain and crew from retaining a redfish bag limit when they are on a for-hire trip.
  • Reducing the limit of reds that can be transported off the water from six to four fish per person.
  • Reducing the eight-fish vessel limit relative to the state’s management zones: In the Panhandle, Big Bend, and Northeast Regions, to four fish. In the Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest, and Southeast Regions, to just two fish.
  • Allowing only catch-and-release fishing for reds in the Indian Bay Lagoon region.

But inshore anglers in our part of Florida visit the gulf’s Big Bend most often, and this is the one zone where measures are proposed to loosen, as the commission will be increasing the daily bag limit for the Big Bend Region from one to two fish per person.

In state waters, the minimum legal length for cobia increases from 33 to 36 inches to the fork of the tail (beginning July 1).

While the redfish rule changes are very likely to be put “into stone” at the Final Rule Hearing later this year, staff will “continue to gather input” until that time.

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