NEW SMYRNA BEACH — The recreational and commercial harvest of tiger sharks and smooth, scalloped and great hammerhead sharks will not be allowed in Florida state waters beginning Jan. 1.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the management change at its Nov. 16 Commission meeting in an effort to further protect these top predators, FWC spokeswoman Amanda Nalley said.
The new measures also prohibit the possession, sale and exchange of tiger sharks and great, scalloped and smooth hammerhead sharks harvested from state waters. These sharks can still be caught and released in state waters and can be taken in adjacent federal waters. Prohibited species that die while on the line after being caught in state waters should be returned to the water immediately.
“The FWC is also working on an educational campaign highlighting fishing and handling techniques that increase the survival rate of sharks that are caught and released while ensuring the safety of the anglers targeting them,” Nalley said.
These techniques include:
* Use tackle heavy enough to land a fish quickly, reducing exhaustion. Release the fish while it is in the water when possible.
* Use a de-hooking device to remove hooks safely. Use non-stainless steel hooks that can dissolve if they remain in a fish.
* Use non-offset circle hooks to avoid gut-hooking a fish.
“Florida waters are considered essential habitat for these and other species of shark, especially juveniles and pregnant females,” Nalley said.
Shark fishing has been strictly regulated in Florida since 1992, with a one-shark-per-person, two-sharks-per-vessel daily bag limit for all recreational and commercial harvesters and a ban on shark finning.
Roughly two-dozen overfished, vulnerable or rare shark species are catch-and-release only in Florida waters. For more information on shark fishing, please visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing” and either “Recreational Regulations” or “Commercial.”
Volusia County Fishing Report: Sailfish bite slowed; unusual for this time of year
The sea surface temperature of the water of Ponce Inlet has been ranging from the low 70s to mid 60s. In the surf and on the piers, the major catch has been bluefish, sheepshead and whiting.
Redfish have been swimming along the beach, but have not been taking baits. In Mosquito and Indian River lagoons, several groups of redfish were seen in the relatively high and dirty water. Some redfish were taken off the lagoons. Catches of redfish and trout have been reported.
In the Halifax River and Tomoka Basin, small redfish catches has been reported especially in the Tomoka area. There has been excellent snook fishing in the western portion of the Tomoka River and in Strickland Creek.
Tarpon have been seen but are not hitting baits in both the Tomoka River and in Strickland Creek. Offshore, the ocean has been quite rough and the cloudier than normal. The sailfish bite has slowed down markedly which is not typical for this time of the year.
Antler-less deer season does not apply on FWC-managed lands
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds hunters that antler-less deer season does not apply on FWC-managed lands that are part of its public hunting system.
Most of these 163 public hunting areas were established as wildlife management areas, but others were established as wildlife and environmental areas, national wildlife refuges, military bases, public-use areas, public small-game hunting areas and places such as the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area.
The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area was established and included in the state’s public hunting area system during the 2009-2010 hunting season.
“Those who hunt Kissimmee Chain enjoy many hunting opportunities that are usually allowed only on private property,” FWC spokesman Tony Young said. “Some of these opportunities include long hunting seasons, a crossbow season, a fall turkey season and year-round hog hunting.”
There also are no quota permits required for any of the area’s hunting seasons, and hunters don’t even need the $26 management area permit to hunt there, like they do on nearly every other public hunting area. But there is one important hunting regulation difference between Kissimmee Chain and private lands: The take of antler-less deer (does and bucks with antlers less than 5 inches in length) is prohibited during all hunting seasons on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area.
So, while the antler-less deer season in Zone B might be running Dec. 26 – Jan. 1, this seven-day season does not occur on Kissimmee Chain, or on any other established public hunting area in the state. Before hunting on any public hunting area, or even setting foot on one, the FWC advises to first read the rules and regulations brochures published for each area, which can be found at MyFWC.com/Hunting and selecting “WMA Brochures.”
Recreational red grouper bag limit to increase in Gulf state waters; grouper season closures near
The recreational red grouper bag limit in Gulf of Mexico state waters (excluding Monroe County) will increase Dec. 30 from two to four fish, followed by the Jan. 1 season closure of shallow-water grouper in Atlantic state waters. The red grouper bag limit increase is one of several fishery management changes made at the November Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting in Key Largo.
Management changes in 2012 will also affect gag grouper season, which is currently closed to fishing in Gulf of Mexico state waters (excluding Monroe County) and will continue to be closed through March 31 (This includes the regularly scheduled annual closure from Feb. 1 through March 31 in Gulf state waters.).
Both measures will help the state achieve consistency with federal red and gag grouper management efforts. Federal managers are working on a plan to further protect gag grouper, which is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Gulf.
The FWC will revisit state gag grouper management efforts in February 2012, once federal rules are solidified. Season closures for red and gag grouper, as well as other shallow-water groupers, are also nearing. In Atlantic state waters, including Monroe County, the season closes Jan. 1 and reopens May 1.
Shallow-water grouper season closes Feb. 1 in Gulf state waters and reopens April 1. Shallow water groupers in Gulf state waters include gag, red, black, yellowfin and yellow-mouth groupers; scamp; and rock and red hind. In Atlantic state waters, it also includes tiger grouper, coney and graysby. To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Grouper.”
Capt. Budd’s PostScript
It has been written: “There has never been an angler who lived that caught a fish capable of taking the conceit out of them.”
So whether you charter, ride a head boat, run your own vessel, stay in the river, surf fish, or fish from shore or a bridge, there are fish to be caught. Fishing is not a matter of life or death; it is so much more important than that.
Tight lines, Capt. Budd
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