Open season for trout

On its first of two days of meetings in Key Largo, the seven-member Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted on three marine fisheries topics that drew plenty of interest from the angling public, professional fishing guides and commercial fishermen, as well.

“What we are trying to do is be fair in a fishery that is in abundance, and in some cases, way in abundance,” said FWC Chairman Kathy Barco. “We are dealing with a success story.”

Touting robust stock assessment numbers for spotted seatrout, the FWC voted to make six changes in trout rules, upping the take for recreational and commercial fishing sectors.

Beginning in February, there will no longer be closed seasons for harvest for recreational anglers and anglers in northeast Florida will have a bag limit of six per person instead of five.

The state will be divided into four management zones for trout — instead of three.

Commercial fishermen will have a trip limit of 150 trout caught by hook and line if two licensed fishermen are on board.

They also will be able to sell trout for 30 days following a closed season, not throughout the year as was one proposal considered. There will be no allowance for using beach seines or haul seines to catch trout commercially nor will there be a 75-fish bycatch allowance.

The choices were praised by groups such as the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida. Recreational anglers were concerned ambiguity in proposals would open the door for future regulation changes that might allow drift gill nets in state waters.

The FWC also voted to double the bag limit for redfish in north Florida from one to two per person per day.

Tiger sharks and three species of hammerhead sharks also received protection from harvest in state waters. The state now prohibits the harvest of 25 species of sharks.

To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings,” then “Agenda.”