Feds look to tighten spearfishing rules

A proposed federal rule that could restrict or ban the use of “powerhead” spearfishing will be among issues raised at Monday hearing in Key Largo.

Staff with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council opens the three-hour session at 4 p.m. at the Hilton Key Largo Resort, mile marker 97, to take general comments on several pending issues.

Among them is a proposal from a council advisory committee to severely restrict the use of powerheads — a shotgun shell or bullet held by a spear — to fish in federal South Atlantic waters.

Another option would be to consider a special fishing-license endorsement for powerhead fishing — or even an endorsement for spearfishing.

“The rationale is that release of undersized fish or protected species is not an option once speared, as it is with hook and line,” says a staff report. “So a diver needs to be sure of the target and know the rules — size limits, closed seasons, etc. — before any fish is speared.”

Powerhead fishers generally target large, slow-growing fish, which may limit the species’ growth, committee members said.

Other issues at the comment meeting include proposals for:


  • A marine-protected area at Snapper Ledge reef off Tavernier. 
  • network of 56 no-trapping zones for lobster fishermen around known sites of elkhorn and staghorn coral. 
  • Raising the minimum size of hogfish taken from federal waters from 12 inches to 18 inches. For more information, go to www.safmc.net.