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*Note From The Tournament Director* You donĘźt have to read this whole manual !!

This is our own custom Fishing Resource that we use in our 6 week Be The Fish class. At the end of the tournament you will have the opportunity to sign up for that class. Right now, this manual is something to look through. There is a lot of good local fishing information here. Each of our 4 Fish Quizzes will be based on information in this manual.

After each fishing period we will post the answers to each Fish Quiz on this website and in our Water LIFE magazine.


Fishing Resource Manual

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Typical Tide Graph Sample: at Punta Gorda Fl.

Here’s what the measuring points are: Mean Higher High Water (MHHW) Highest Mean High Water (MHW) Mean Tide Level (MTL) Mean Sea Level (MSL) Mean Low Water (MLW) Mean Low Lower Water (MLLW) Lowest

**** Mean Low

Lower Water is the water depth shown on Nautical Charts **** (try to remember that!)

Look at a seawall or piling someplace. See where the water level is when the tide is in, then see where it is later when the tide is out. Fishermen often have a ‘feeling’ for where the tide is at any given time of day. The difference in height between MHHW and MLLW is called the Diurnal range of tide.

The Mean range of tide is the difference in height between MHW and MLW. The actual range of tide in the waters of the open oceans may amount to only one to three feet. However, as the ocean tide approaches shoal waters of the shore its effects are enhanced. In Nova Scotia along the narrow channel of the Bay of Fundy, the difference between high and low waters may reach 43 1/2 feet At New Orleans, the tide is affected by the Mississippi River, being about 10 inches at low stage and zero at high. In every case, actual high or low tide can vary considerably from average, due to weather conditions such as strong winds, abrupt barometric changes, or prolonged periods of extreme high or low pressure. A 10 mph wind from the same direction for 10 hours can add or subtract 6 inches to a tide.

1-Day of Tides – Example Punta Gorda Florida 26.9283° N, 82.0650° W 2011-10-17 2011-10-17 2011-10-17 2011-10-17 2011-10-17 2011-10-17 2011-10-17 2011-10-18 2011-10-18 2011-10-18 2011-10-18 2011-10-18 2011-10-18 2011-10-18 2011-10-18

05:24 EDT 07:28 EDT 12:12 EDT 14:00 EDT 18:58 EDT 20:53 EDT 22:59 EDT 00:09 EDT 06:13 EDT 07:29 EDT 13:00 EDT 15:02 EDT 18:57 EDT 22:11 EDT 23:54 EDT

2.08 feet High Tide Sunrise Moonset 0.18 feet Low Tide Sunset 1.32 feet High Tide Moonrise 1.24 feet Low Tide 2.02 feet High Tide Sunrise Moonset 0.23 feet Low Tide Sunset 1.32 feet High Tide Moonrise

Where local tides are measured


WhatĘźs all that funny stuff at the bottom of this tide chart? Page 6

Fishing Resource Manual

Based on Florida folklore, the Solunar table was created to determine the best time for fishing based on the positions of the Sun the Moon and the Tides. The closer the Sun and the Moon are to you at any given moment, the stronger their influence. Scientists recorded the capture of record fish and large numbers of fish. Over 90 percent were made during the dark of the moon (new moon) when the effects of of the Solunar Periods appear to be greatest, and during the actual times of the Solunar Periods. When a Solunar Period falls within 30 minutes of sunrise or sunset (weather permitting) you can anticipate great fishing action! The day of a NEW or FULL MOON will provide the strongest influence in each month. When you have a moonrise or moonset during that period the action will be even greater. And, finally, when the Solunar times occur during a NEW or FULL MOON, you can expect the best action of the season!

Location Punta Gorda, FL Baltimore, Md Boston, MA Charleston, SC Cristobal, Panama Eastport, ME Pt. Pulaski, GA Galveston, TX Halifax, Nova Scotia

Ft. 2 1 10 5 1 19 7 1 4

In. 0 8 4 10 1 4 8 5 5.2

Some Average Rises and Falls of Tides around North America Hammon Roads, VA Key West, FL Mobile, AL New London, CT Newport, RI New York, NY Philadelphia, PA Portland, ME

2 1 1 3 3 5 6 9

10 10 6 1 11 1 9 11

St. John's Newfoundland St Petersburg, FL San Diego, CA Sandy Hook, NJ San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA Vancouver, BC Washington, DC

Month Long Sample Tide Chart for Boca Grande

2 2 5 5 5 11 10 3

7.2 3 10 10 10 4 6 2


Fishing Resource Manual

FISHING ON THE HIGH TIDE Summertime on Charlotte Harbor means high tides and good fishing. The angling challenge with the extra high tides of summer is where to find the fish. With each incoming tide redfish, snook and trout meander their way into the feeding grounds. Starting from the lower tide phases, gamefish will warily make a trek into the backcountry. The middle tidal phases can be difficult because the fish are spread out over our expansive flats. As the flow of tide adds inches to the water depth, the range of exploration expands. The expanding waterline floods mangroves, oyster beds and weedy bottom that previously were too shallow for safe feeding. Savvy anglers need to position themselves to take advantage of the incoming water. There is indeed a certain strategy that needs to be employed. Many strategies have come from extensive hours of not catching any fish compared to the short scopes of time where and when the fishing is hot. In short, many fishing spots have short windows of time where the fish are either passing through or positioned in a feeding mode for a length of time. There are incoming tide spots and outgoing tide spots and a rare few are both. Incoming vs. Outgoing Tide- If you consider that fish are migrating with the rising tide to feed then it would seem that they would be hungrier and more aggressive on the incoming. Conversely, on the outgoing tide the fish have already been feeding and are gearing up to migrate back out of the shallows as the tides recede. Which fish is going to be more aggressive, an incoming tide fish that has been led by the dinner bell of the high tide or the outgoing tide fish that has been feeding for hours and is heading out? Most anglers I know love the incoming tide. Obviously, this is because they catch more fish on the incoming tide. For the high tides of summer I prefer the top of the outgoing tides, but the last 2 hours of incoming are pretty hard to beat. Perhaps some anglers are just better at understanding the predatory instincts of redfish and snook on certain tide phases. The next question is where do fish go on a high tide? Generally speaking, they move further into the

Page 7 backcountry with rising waters. Thery choose funnel areas that modify water flow and they look for shoreline irregularities that will allow them to position themselves to ambush prey. Finding them sounds simple enough but it requires persistence. There are so many great looking spots when the bushes are flooded. A few things to look for are:

I Mangroves with indentations that are flooded on high tide and void on low tide (preferably located next to deeper water). I Mangroves that have adjacent oyster beds. I Mangroves with obvious current flow. I Creek channels leading from the backcountry. I Mangroves that contain hard banks. I Baitfish activity of any kind. I Mullet jumping or swirling. I Oyster beds. Fishing techniques are basic. For artificials, high tides are the perfect time to become a “bassmaster�. Cast spoons and weedless soft plastics in rapid fire fashion and cover lots of water. This is a great time to work a topwater bait as well. Bait fishing requires more patience, but is hard to beat. Fish pinfish or cut bait on the bottom and hang on. The most important key is to make accurate casts with your bait tight against the bush. A cast two feet from the bush is usually a waisted cast as gamefish will usually not stray far from their water flushed sanctuary. There are some other considerations for high tide fishing. The huge influx of freshwater will create extra current flow particularly on the outgoing tide. Fish may position themselves to take advantage of the extra water flow and the groceries that flow out with it. With huge rainfalls you may have to consider the varying salinity. If the water becomes too fresh, then baitfish may avoid the area as well as what your fishing for. Lastly, super high tides that are wind driven can be the kiss of death for fishing. Extra flooded waters give the fish way too much room to roam however the lack of tide flow that usually comes with it does more to shut down the bite then the extra water. Fishing is always about being in the right place at the right time.


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FISHING LINE THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT TYPES Several years ago monofillamant was the most popular fishing line, but local bait shops we spoke to today say they now sell about 80-percent braided line and 20-percent mono. Mono will catch more fish. Fish apparently don’t see it as easily, but braided line is stronger, lighter and theirfore you can cast it further, so you don’t have to get as close and you don’t spook the fish. Strength for strength, braided line is skinnier than mono. A piece of braided line that will break at 20 pounds is about the same thickness as a piece of mono that will break at 6 pounds. Problems arise when you take a small lightweight 6-pound-test line rated reel and spool it up with some 20-pound braided line. line The skinny braided 20-pound line will fit on the reel and pass around the rollers just fine, but it will break at a much higher test (20-pounds) than the 6-pound reel was designed for, so the reel itself will break before the line. Monofilament is used for both saltwater and freshwater casting reels. Monofillament is the recommended line for spinning reels. Cheap monofilament lines are stiff. Relaxed lines are slightly more expensive, easier to cast and do not spring or stick out on the reel. Replace monofilament at least once a year– more frequently if it is subject to intense casting activity or heavy lures on a regular basis. Line can also be weakened by numerous long runs or fights with large fish. Never discard monofilament into fishing water. It is a threat to both fish and birds as well as being illegal. Most tackle shops and many area fishing piers have recepticles for old fishing line. Microbraided Line Most people simply call it braided line, but it’s a very fine woven braid, a micro-braid. The line is made of nylon and kevlar a super strong space age thread used to make bullet proof vests. It is extremely light but because of it’s composition won’t hold its color very long. It sometimes turns a milky grey. When casting or fighting a fish, line can come in contact with all types of abrasive elements including barnacles, rocks, docks, logs, and even other fish. Line should be stripped of all abrasions. Some anglers recommend that after a particularly tough fight with a fish, at least 10 feet of line should be cut off and all swivels, snaps, leader, lures or hooks retied.

Joining two lines Overlap the ends of two lines of similar diameter for about 6 inches. Choose one end and form a Uni-Knot circle, crossing the two lines about midway of the overlapped distance. Tie the Uni-Knot, making six turns around the two lines. Pull the tag end to snug the knot tight around the line. Use the loose end of the overlapped line to tie another Uni-Knot and make it snug. Pull the two standing lines in opposite directions to slide the knots together. Pull them as tight as possible and snip the ends close to the nearest coil. Leader to line When tying a leader of no more than four times the test weight of the line, double end the line and overlap with leader for about 6 inches. This may seem awkward at first but the light line must be doubled to gain the strength needed for the knot. Make the Uni-Knot circle with the doubled line. Tie the basic Uni-Knot, making three turns around the two lines and snug the knot. Now tie the UniKnot with leader around the doubled line. Again use only three turns. Pull the knots together as tightly as possible and trim the ends and loop.


Fishing Resource Manual

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FISHERMENĘźS KNOTS For fishing in Charlotte County, there are five knots which should meet most needs. START HERE! LEARN TO TIE THIS KNOT! Improved clinch knot This knot is easy to tie and is very good for attaching swivels, snaps, and hooks. The improved clinch knot works well on jigs and with lures that have a split ring attached to the eye of the lure, but this knot is not good for braided line. To tie the improved clinch knot, pass the line through the eye of the hook, swivel or lure. Double back and make five turns around the standing line. Hold the coils in place and thread the end of the line through the first loop above the eye, then through the big loop. To tighten the knot, hold the tag end and standing line while pulling the coils together. Be careful that the coils are in a spiral and do not overlap each other. Slide the knot tight against the eye and then clip the tag end. All knots will tighten better if they are kissed, that is moistened slightly with saliva before being pulled completely tight.

clinch knot

The palomar knot This knot has excellent strength. It is particularly good for holding snaps, swivels, hooks, and smaller lures. To tie, double about 4 inches of line and pass the loop through the eye. Let the hook or other terminal tackle hang loose and tie an overhand knot in the doubled line. Make sure there is no twisting in the lines. Do not tighten the knot. Pull the loop of line far enough to pass it over the hook, swivel, or lure. Make sure the loop passes completely over the attachment. Pull both tag end and standing line to tighten. Clip the tag end about 1/8 inch above the knot.

palomar knot

A little practice while watching television is a painless way to develop and keep knot tying skills. The tell-tale sign of an improperly tied knot is a pig tail at the end of the line when you reel in line and the hook or lure is not there.


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Fishing Resource Manual

The surgeonʼs knot This reliable knot is best used for tying heavy monofilament leader or shock line to a monofilament or braided dacron line. To tie, lay the line and leader parallel, overlapping 6” to 8”. Treating the two lines like a single line, tie an overhand knot, pulling the entire leader through the loop. Leaving the loop of the overhand open, pull both the tag end of the line and the leader through again. Hold both lines and both ends to pull the knot tight. Clip the ends close to avoid foul-up in the rod guides.

UNI-KNOT SYSTEM surgeonʼs knot While there is no perfect knot for every fishing situation, Vic Dunaway’s Uni-Knot System is designed as a basic knot that can be varied to meet most fishermen’s needs. The knot can be used to tie line to hooks, lures, swivels and snaps, line to leader, line to line, and line to spool. It is described as a 100 per cent knot, which means on a steady pull the line will break before the knot gives way. When tying hooks, swivels or lures to the line, run at least 6 inches of line through the eye of the hook and fold it to make two parallel lines. Bring the end of the line back in a circle toward the eye. Make six turns with the tag end around the double line and through the circle. Hold the double line at a point where it passes through the eye and pull the tag end slowly to snug the turns. Pull the standing line to slide the knot against the eye. Continue pulling until the knot is tight. Trim the tag end flush with the closest coil of the knot.

uni knot

LOOP KNOTS ARE FOR LURES

Creating a loop knot for a lure Tie the same knot to a point where turns are snug around the standing line. Slide the knot toward the eye until the desired loop size is reached. Pull the tag end with a pliers to maximum tightness. This feature of the knot gives a lure or hook a natural free movement in the water. When a fish is hooked, the knot will slide tight against the eye.

More Knots on page 42-43!

loop knot


All About RODS & REELS Fishing Resource Manual

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On a spinning rod, the reel seat and its guides hang below the rod. Because it is strong, light weight, and resists corrosion, graphite is the best material for a reel seat. The handle of a spinning rod is usually made of Rinse your rod & reel off everytime you finish fishing foam or composite cork. Both are good materials that Anglers use a fishing rod to deliver a bait or lure fit and cushion the hand. On larger rods it is desirable to to a specific target. The rod also serves as a lever when have an additional gripping space in front of the reel you set the hook and it absorbs the fish’s energy during seat. The handle should feel comfortable as it is used for the fight. long periods of time. The strength of the rod and the test weight of the A 6- to 7 1/2-foot spinning rod is a good line is critical since together those two factors determine all-round size for fishing Charlotte Harbor and most how much pull can be applied to a fish without the line open fresh-water in the county.

or the rod breaking.

Most fishing rods have a recommended lure and line weight range printed on the lower part of of the rod. Spinning and baitcasting rods are usually classified as follows:  Ultralight: 2 to 6 pounds  Light: 6 to 10 pounds  Medium: 10 to 14 pounds  Medium-heavy: 14 to 20 pounds  Heavy: Above 20 pounds ...but fly rods are classified differently:

SPINNING RODS Rods are made from a variety of materials with the most popular being graphite and fiberglass. Graphite is lightweight and frequently combined with fiberglass or other materials such as boron, to add strength and sensitivity. Some rods are made of two or more sections. Multipiece rods can be taken apart for storage or transportation and are easier to keep intact than long one piece rods that can have their tips broken off in car doors and ceiling fans. A spinning rod needs a minimum of five line guides and a tip. Line guides spread out the stress on the rod when the fish fights. The frame holding the guide should be chrome or stainless steel. Stainless often has a blackened finish. Golden frames, while initially attractive, can be susceptible to corrosion.

SPINNING REELS Spinning reels are easy to learn to use. After a brief lesson and a little practice, anyone can cast with reasonable accuracy and distance. Spinning reels are excellent for up to 30-pound-test line mono line or up to 60-pound braided line, Beyond that line weight, spinning reels do not hold line efficiently and must be excessively large to hold a large quantity of line. Important features on spinning reels The drag mechanism is a system of flat washers system that create resistance when line is being pulled from the reel. The drag serves to tire


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the fish as it pulls line off the spool. Drag is adjustable and must be set so there is not enough resistance for the line to break.

Fishing Resource Manual

is engaged. The reel should not be cranked while the fish is pulling line off the spool. Let the rod and the drag fight the fish. Baits spin when retrieved and that can contribute YES! Do Try This Yourself to twisting. This type of twisting can be reduced signifTo set the resistance, hook a hand scale, (Boga Grip, X- icantly by using a ball bearing swivel between the line Tools scale or other measuring device) to a fixed object. Tie and the leader. Twisted lines can usually be relieved by the line to the hand scale, step back a few paces and pull the playing the line out behind a moving boat and trailing it rod into a fish fighting position. The drag should be set to 25 for a few minutes. Nothing should be attached to the line per cent of the line’s breaking point. That means the drag setting for 12 pound test line is proper when the drag releases at during this process. 3 pounds of pressure on the hand scale. It is important to get a ‘feel’ for this.

Ball bearings: An important consideration when buying a reel is the number of ball bearings. Ball bearings are used on various critical moving areas of the reel. The more bearings there are, the smoother and more efficient the reel will be.

Anti-reverse: The anti-reverse works with the drag. When the anti-reverse is in the ON position, the reel can not spin backwards. When the anti-reverse is in the OFF position, the reel is in ‘free spool’ and can spin backwards or forwards. Free spool is useful when the angler wants the fish to pull line off the reel without resistance, a common bottom fishing technique.

BAITCASTING EQUIPMENT Baitcasting reels differ from spinning reels in very visible ways. The reels are of completely different designs with spinning using a fixed line spool and baitcasting a revolving one. In spinning, the reel and line guides are mounted under the rod. In baitcasting, the reel seat and line guides are on top. The line guides on baitcasting rods are considerably smaller than those on spin casting. Baitcasting rods have a variety of handles while most spinning rods have the same type. Baitcasting has increased in popularity because of new materials that lighten reel weight, and development of anti-backlash devices that work effectively.

The reel body: The reel body should be graphite, graphite composite, or anodized aluminum. A painted reel has the least durable finish. Graphite is light weight, which can be a major consideration when casting all day. Spinning reels like spinning rods must be matched to the proper line weights. Line tests and amount of line the reel holds at that weight are printed on the reel. Reels, like rods, are classified from ultralight through heavy. For best performance the reel, rod BAITCASTING RODS and line must match. When they do, the combination is Baitcasting rods are made from said to be ‘balanced.’ Most spinning reels come with a the same material as spinning rods, that feature that allows the handle to be placed on either the is, graphite or graphite in combination left or right side of the reel. with fiberglass or boron. One of the unique factors of baitLine twisting: Spinning reels have a line twisting casting is the variety of handles availproblem. It will be difficult for you to put line on a reel able. The pistol grip was once popular, manually without some twisting, even when directions however now saltwater fishermen freare followed explicitly. quently prefer a straight handled rod Most every tackle shop has the proper equipment to with the handle at least 10 inches or put line on a reel without twisting, plus the angler only longer. buys the amount of line needed. Such length and shape allow at least Line twisting also is caused by reeling while the drag three things to be done:


Fishing Resource Manual

First, with a straight handle, the rod blank can be extended the full rod length with the grip built around the blank rather than attached to it. The through-handle blank gives a rod added sensitivity. Second, this design adds to the overall rod strength both in setting the hook and fighting the fish. Long handled rods may have a trigger to aid in casting, but the true advantage of the length is how easy it makes two handed casting. For many people that is a physically more comfortable technique. Particularly if there is a lot of casting to be done. Third, pistol grips do not fit in many boat rod holders, which can be bothersome when one is trolling or just putting the rod down for a minute.

The guides of a casting rod should be ceramic or an oxide for saltwater fishing. Since most local anglers fish both fresh and saltwater, it is better if fresh-water rods also have those type guides. Like spinning equipment, baitcasting rods have the lure weight and line weight printed on the blank. These rods are classified from ultra-light to heavy. Newer rods have a larger range of lure/line weight than older traditional classifications. It is important when buying a rod to have a clear idea how the rod will be used. Of course, no one rod meets all uses and most fishermen own a number of rods. When a casting rod is matched with the proper reel and lure/line weight, it will cast farther and with more accuracy than comparable spinning equipment. Casting rods range in size from 5 to 7 foot. The most preferred length around Charlotte Harbor is a medium heavy 6 1/2-foot rod. CONVENTIONAL REELS A baitcasting reel belongs to a type of reels called conventional. On a conventional reel, cranking the reel handle turns the line spool. Conventional reels are used for casting, bottom fishing, and trolling. The baitcasting reel is designed to be cast, although it also has features which allow it to be used for trolling and bottom fishing. There are a number of features

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unique to a conventional casting reel. Some have levelwind, anti-backlash, constant anti-reverse, free spool, and the star drag. Level Wind: The level wind plays retrieved line across the spool evenly to facilitate easy exit when cast. For conventional reels handling line over 30 pound test, a level wind is not used, primarily because of the stress placed on it when a large fish makes an extremely long and powerful run. On reels without a level wind, the angler nudges the line with the thumb during retrieval to help it distribute evenly on the spool. Monofilament lines above 30 pound test are usually not cast for long distances, rather they are used in trolling, heavy jigging in very deep water and in downrigger applications. Braided lines, due to their smaller diameter can be used to 50- or 60-pounds. Anti-backlash: The anti-backlash feature slows the spool and stops overspin. To adjust the antibacklash, a lure is attached to the line and the rod is held at a 45 degree angle. The reel is put in free spool and the anti-backlash adjusted until the lure barely pulls line from the spool by its own weight. The Free Spool: The free spool is operated by either a button or a thumb bar on the reel, which when pressed, disengages the line spool, allowing it to spin freely. Drag System: The drag system of a conventional reel has an alternating series of stainless steel and leather-like composites or teflon washers. The drag is adjusted by tightening or loosening the large star located on the same spindle as the cranking handle. Proper adjustment of the drag is based on 25 per cent of the test weight of the line. Anti-reverse: All casting reels have as part of the drag system an anti-reverse. This feature, when engaged, insures the spool can only be cranked in one direction and stops the handle from spinning backward. Ball Bearings: Ball bearings in conventional reels are critical for a smooth and long lasting life. Three ball bearings are recommended for baitcasting reels and two for other conventional reels. More than that significantly increases general maintenance and a fewer number reduces smoothness. Conventional casting reels come in a variety of body shapes and materials. Most are made for right handed operation, but some left handed models are available.


Page 14 When buying a reel, it should be fitted on a rod and handled like it would be under fishing conditions. Different reels feel different and weigh different amounts. Casting reels require more hand effort than spinning reels. If you doubt that, hold a conventional reel and loosen your grip slightly. The rod will rotate and the reel will revert to an upside down position. Baitcasting reels come with a number of additional features not discussed here, including retrieve ratios, multiple drag adjustments, and quick change spools. The selection of various options is an individual one, but there are now conventional casting reels available with features that will meet most needs.

SPINCASTING REELS Spinning and baitcasting reels are equally at home in fresh or saltwater environments. That is not true of spincast reels, which operate best in freshwater, but can also be used for light saltwater fishing. Spincast reels are sometimes viewed as a combination spinning/baitcasting reel because the line spool is fixed like a spin ning reel, and it mounts on a baitcasting rod. Easily recognized by the cone shape that covers the spool, they are referred to as closed faced reels. Line is attached to the spool through a small opening in the center of the cone face and is retrieved by a spinner head that drops it loosely around the spool. Casting is controlled by a thumb button located at the rear of the reel. Depressing the button readies the reel for a cast, and when the thumb is lifted, line is released. Because the spool is fixed, the reel will not backlash. This feature has made the reel very popular with freshwater fishermen. Spincast reels come in a wide range of sizes, from micro reels capable of casting a 1/32 ounce lure

Fishing Resource Manual

with line weights of 1 to 4 pound test to magnum reels that use 20 pound test monofilament or some heavier braided lines. Some of the most popular spincast reels are designed for crappie/spec and bluegill fishing. These reels can be quite light, 5 to 6 1/2 ounces, and when matched with an ultralight graphite baitcasting rod can be fished all day without significant fatigue. They are particularly comfortable for children and others who do not have great arm and wrist strength. While extremely easy to use, spincast reels are not without problems, the most significant being line pinching and twisting. All spincast reels come pre-spooled with the appropriate line for the reel. The way line is collected and placed on the spool makes it difficult to not have some twist in the line when it is replaced. A good tackle shop can dismantle the reel and place the spool on a winding machine to insure no twisting. This is normally not a costly service. The problem of line pinching results from the way line is placed on the spool during retrieval. The spinner head has a pin, either metal or ceramic, that picks up the line and drops it loosely on the spool. A fighting fish pulls line tight on the spool during the fight and can cause line to be buried between the loose coils. After the fish is landed and subsequent casts made, the pinched line can stop the flow of line off the spool. To correct the problem, the reel face must be removed and the line worked free. ROD AND REEL MAINTENANCE It is imperative that an angler spend time after each fishing trip doing simple maintenance of their fishing equipment. Each rod and reel should be rinsed off with fresh water to get the salt off. Clean the guides by running fingers around them to break loose the salt residue. Do not use a hard spray, rather rinse the rod with a gentle column of water. The reel seat should be exposed periodically and cleaned to stop salt build up. The guides, their ceramic inserts, and the feet and wraps should be visually checked. Reels can to some extent be salt proofed by a thorough application of saltwater resistant grease inside the body of the reel. Even new reels should be given a coating to stop the intrusion of saltwater. Saltwater resistant grease is also heat resistant. Cork and composite handles that are stained by hand oils can be cleaned using rubbing alcohol.


Fishing Resource Manual

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Where to Fish from Land Englewood Area: Tom Adams Bridge Placida Pier Coral Creek Pier Boca Grand Trestle Gulf Shoreline El Jo Bean Trestle

Murdock / Port Charlotte Area: Beach Complex Pier Harbor Heights Park Dock Under / On 41 Bridges Bayshore Piers Punta Gorda Area: Laishley Park Pier Gilchrist Park Pier Nature Park Pier Ponce De Leon Park Cecil Webb / Babcock Lakes Alligator Creek

HereĘźs a tarpon caught in the surf at Englewood Beach.

In the past you could hold a big tarpon like this, but now the FWC says only tarpon less than 4-feet long can be lifted out of the water for a picture.

Tarpon studies have shown tarpon that are released while in the water by simply breaking or cutting the leader have the greatest rate of survival.

Holding any fish against your shirt (or with a dry towell) is bad because it removes the protective slime from the animal.

It is always best to release a fish while it is still in the water.

Where to Fish by Boat

 Snook and redfish along the mangroves during higher tides  Trout on the grass flats  Snook and redfish in the potholes during lower tides  Snook and redfish in the creeks  Variety of species at the Alligator Creek reef

Note* For more detailed information on where to fish by boat, see the Places to Fish section on Page 16-17 of this manual.


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4

Fishing Resource Manual

Northern Charlotte Harbor Where to Fish By Boat

1

4 1

2

2

2

4

1

3

3

5

2

1) Snook & Redfish along the mangroves during higher tides 2) Trout on the grass flats 3) Snook, Redfish & Trout in the potholes 4) Snook & Redfish in the creeks 5) Variety of species on the artificial reef here


Fishing Resource Manual

Southern Charlotte Harbor Where to Fish By Boat

1

1

3 1

4

5 2

4

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2

4

2 2

3

1) Snook & Redfish along the mangroves during higher tides 2) Trout on the grass flats 3)Snook, Redfish & Trout in the potholes 4) Snook & Redfish in the creeks 5) Variety of species on the artificial reef here


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Fishing Resource Manual


Do the right thing....... Fishing Resource Manual

.....even when no one else is looking

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PLACES TO FISH Page 22

FOR OTHER SPECIES

How many times have you heard a Charlotte County resident say they rarely catch fish when they go fishing. It’s hard for me to believe because there are more fish within Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound and the surrounding waters than most anywhere else in the U.S.. Most folks who live here came from a northern state and they are not used to fishing in shallow waters, often less than 5 feet or what we refer to as a deep hole of 20 feet. Our waters are generally clear and you would think that if there are fish in the water then you should be able to see them. Right? Up north, 15 feet is shallow and deep is over 50 feet. Everyone does occasionally have a skunked day on the water, but more often it’s when they pursue the glamorous species, tarpon, snook and redfish. But this article brings us back to earlier southern Florida fishing experiences when we had a hard time catching fish before we employed the basics. This article is primarily about catching many subtropical species that do not include the tarpon, snook or redfish. The fish you can expect to easily encounter without a sophisticated effort includes mangrove snapper, assorted bottom species including grunts and flounder, ladyfish, sharks (primarily blacktip and bonnethead), jack crevalle, speckled trout, bluefish, mackerel, goliath grouper, hardhead and gafftop catfish, black drum, barracuda and many others. There are a lot of other fish besides snook, redfish and tarpon and primarily these fish can be pursued in open waters not around extreme shallows and mangrove islands. In short, to catch fish on just about any occasion there are 3 basic styles of fishing to employ- drift fishing, anchored bottom fishing and trolling. It sounds simple enough and the baits to use for each style are actually simple enough as well. The warm weather bait of choice would be live shrimp, live baitfish, live crabs or fresh cut bait including ladyfish and threadfin herring. Perhaps the easiest and cheapest baits are frozen squid and Spanish sardines. The most relaxed fishing is drift fishing and it is very productive as well. The biggest thing to fishing success is fishing in the

Fishing Resource Manual right spot. The basic rule of ‘where-fish-will-befound’ typically involves a bottom change in depth. For example, an 8-foot bottom that falls off quickly to a 12-foot depth offers the fish a breakline of depth to ambush from and becomes a fish magnet. The second rule is current flow which helps fish position themselves to take advantage of an incoming or outgoing tide on a bottom feature. With these 2 rules in mind here are 2 examples of spots that are pretty much a sure thing: Go to the Jug Creek Bar and set up a drift on an incoming tide on the outskirts of the bar where shallow meets deep and you will catch fish. Location No. 2 is Johnson Shoals just outside Boca Grande Pass where you let the tide pull your boat past the edge of the shallow water ledge as it juts down into the channel. These locations are fish super-highways and there are thousands of fish in our area. Set up a bottom rig with a light sinker with a snelled hook about 12 inches above the sinker and bait-up with a shrimp or squid. Match the hook size to the bait size. Another approach is to use a jighead tipped with bait and drift this behind the boat. You will not go home skunked! This same tactic can be employed around the harbor adjacent to heavy weedbeds or in the middle of a large expanse of grass. A different rig would be one that suspends your bait below a float as you drift along. Impart an occasional jerk as you drift along which creates sound and draws the fishes attention to your bait. A second productive fishing technique is bottom fishing from an anchored boat. Again, being where the fish are is the key. The many public reefs hold fish however less visible spots hold plenty more fish. For instance, the mouth of the Peace River or intersection of Matlacha Pass with Charlotte Harbor are great places to throw the anchor and put a few lines out. My general rigging method is to place a 1/0 to 3/0 hook on 2 feet of 30-pound mono leader and pitch a shrimp or cut- bait out. Have at least 2 lines out so that one can be fished weightless and the other with a few split shots to get it the near the bottom. Heavier current flow may require more weight. You can expect sharks, trout, jacks, ladyfish, mackerel and occasionally a grouper, tarpon or cobia. You really never know what will bite. Another good location is the old pilings from the phosphate docks on the north side of Boca Grande. These pilings hold a lot of fish. Anchor up, place a chum bag over the side and get ready to


Fishing Resource Manual

reel. Goliath grouper love this spot. Many other bottom fish will jolt your rod and often break you off before you can pull them from the structure. The key here is the structure. It offers a place for the predator fish to stage behind and ambush their prey. This is the basic fundamental of the successful angler. Visualize the bottom and any ambush point that is derived from a bottom depth change, or position your boat to fish man-made structure. Identify these spots by reviewing a chart and using your depthfinder to locate the subtle bottom contours. More obvious places include man-made rip-rap, rocks, seawalls, pilings and bridge abutments. Sandbars are snackbars for fish and are a sure thing for action. You can drift or anchor on sandbars that form points or pockets and have moving water around them. As a general guideline, fish a spot for 20-30 minutes before moving on to the next. Fish travel different paths on different tides and at different times of year. Be patient, but fresh bait should get some attention if your in the right spot. One of the favorite baits on the Harbor is cut ladyfish. Catching ladyfish is at least half the fun of having them for bait. Ladyfish love to hang on the outside of the east and west bars, mouth of the Myakka River, Bull and Turtle Bay. Generally in 3-6 feet of water they can be caught throwing soft plastic lures and spoons. Let the wind drift you down the edge and blind cast until you hook up. With a few ladies in the boat your ready to go fishing. On a recent fishing trip, we had a slack tide with high northeast winds that put the kabash on fish catching. Our third fish of the day after 5 hours fishing was a ladyfish. Redfish, sharks, snook and most other species love cut ladyfish. Hoping to save a slow fishing day we took the one ladyfish and went to a nearby mangrove island and cast out a healthy chunk. So far that day a livewell of pilchards could hardly raise a bite. After only 10 minutes of soak time with a ladyfish chunk a huge redfish ate the bait. One heck of a battle ensued and 10 minutes later a redfish of over 14 pounds came boatside. Two more bites produced catfish which really gave a good account of themselves despite being less glamorous.

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Trolling is a basic form of fishing where you cover lots of water while fishing lines out of the back of the boat. Despite the fact that you won’t see many boats trolling Charlotte Harbor we do it often when guests come into town. We can talk and enjoy the weather and casually fish while the swells of the harbor impart extra action into our lures. Mackerel and ladyfish are really suckers for a small white bucktail with a twister tail attached. A silver or gold spoon also works well. Put your boat in gear and make a long cast with 2-3 rods, letting a little extra line out as the boat moves forward. From Burnt Store Marina to Boca Grande Pass there is always a school of fish to be had. Set a troll up for 20 minutes and if no fish are hooked, move your boat up another mile or so into a new area. One thing to look for is small white birds dipping on the water or pelicans diving. This indicates bait on the surface and almost always there are fish nearby. If you are not getting bites know that upsizing or downsizing your lures can make a huge difference. Another method of trolling is to use your trolling motor with live bait. The hard part is catching the scaled sardines and threadfins but slow trolling with a trolling motor can be deadly. The Peace River can be very good as well as trolling in 5-12 feet of water parallel to the bars throughout the harbor. Tarpon are commonly caught this way. If you don’t want to bother with a cast net then buy a sabiki rig and catch your bait around the roving pods of threadfin herring that are seen on the surface. For the ultimate in action try slow trolling threadfins parallel to the beaches and hang on! Any beach area within 100 yards to several miles offshore has lots of fish and big fish to excite any angler. Expect sharks, barracuda, kingfish, huge redfish, snook, jacks, cobia and you-name-it... it is there. There are as many fishing techniques as there are fisherman however the basic methods above will produce a variety of fish every day on the water. No need for a high performance boat or 50 years of fishing experience to have success. The key is fresh bait, identifying good bottom locations to fish and trolling, drifting or bottom fishing the area. Nothing is more important than perhaps confidence. If you carefully select an area and believe it will produce then it likely will.


Circle Hooks Page 24

Fishing Resource Manual

What they are —-- How they work Circle hooks have been used by commercial fishermen for decades due to their ability to efficiently catch fish. The principle behind the hook is simple. After the hook has been swallowed the fisher applies pressure to the line, pulling the hook out of the stomach. The unique hook shape causes the hook to slide towards the point of resistance and embed itself in the jaw or in the corner of the fish's mouth. The actual curved shape of the hook keeps the hook from catching in the gut cavity or throat.

When to use them Circle hooks can be used on any species of fish caught on hook and line. Commercial (grouper/snapper/swordfish) fishermen have been successfully using circle hooks for years. How to use them Basic Rule: Don't impede the hook with bait; that is, don't put the hook in the bony portions of the bait.

Circle hooks in size 19 (big offshore) and a size 2 (inshore)

Bottom Fishing For bottom fishing simply replace your standard hook with a circle hook. When a fish eats the bait allow time for the fish to completely swallow the hook before steadily reeling in the line. DO NOT attempt to set the hook by sharply jerking the rod as this will pull the hook out of the fish's mouth. Trolling For trolling it is best to attach the hook to the bait with a rubber band or waxed string. This allows the hook to hang freely above the bait. Live Baiting For live bait simply hook the bait through a fleshy part of the fish. This allows the bait to tear loose when the

fish strikes.

Hooking Techniques There is only one technique: DON'T SET THE HOOK. Steadily and slowly reel in the slack in the line until the hook sets itself in the fish. This requires some patience and restraint. Patience to make sure the fish has had time to swallow the bait and restraint in the initial urge to violently set the hook.

Benefits The hook sets itself when you reel in the line. There are Fewer gut-hooked fish. Fish caught with circle hooks have a higher survival than gut-hooked fish. A fish hooked in the corner of the mouth tends to fight better than a fish hooked in the gut. With the hook in the corner of the mouth the line is generally out of the way of the fish's teeth so you can use a lighter weight leader.


HOOKS SWIVELS SPLIT RINGS & SINKERS Fishing Resource Manual

Terminal tackle is the term for all fishing equip ment, except lures, used at the end of the fishing line. Hooks, swivels, snaps, split rings, beads, leads/weights, floats and leaders are ‘terminal tackle.’

HOOKS Hooks are the single most important piece of terminal tackle, Charlotte County anglers need only be concerned with a relatively small range of hook sizes and types. Although size is important, a range of Long and short shank ʻjʼ hooks hook sizes can beused to catch the same fish. All hooks are either straight or off-set. For straight hooks, the shank, point, and bend are in-line. When placed on a level surface the hook lies flat. Place an offset hook in the same position and the hook point will either jut up or down slightly. On some off-set hooks the shank is also bent. The bend causes the hook to rotate in the fish’s mouth when set or bitten. Off-set hooks are believed to have a slightly better chance of hooking a fish than in-line ones. Hooks may be finished in gold, bronze, nickel, blue, cadmium plated/tinned, and stainless steel. Blued hooks are used almost exclusively for freshwater fishing. Cadmium plated/tinned and nickel are both long lasting and used for saltwater fishing. Gold and bronze hooks rust quickly. They are considered ‘fish friendly’

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because they can be left in a fish and will rust away in a short time. Stainless steel hooks are primarily used on lures although they can be bought loose and are popular with some saltwater fisherman since they do not rust and spoil the appearance of a tackle box. It is recommended stainless steel hooks be used on lures only since they do not rust if left in a fish. Hooks carry size numbers of either one or two digits, or numbers separated by a slant. Numbers not separated by a slant decrease in size as the number gets larger, while numbers Hook size: ʻ1/0ʼ not the same as ʻsize 1ʼ that are separated by a slant increase in size as the number increases. For example, 22 is a very small hook, and 9/0 is a very large hook. There is no 0 size hook. For saltwater fishing, a long shank off-set hook such as an Eagle Claw 66N in sizes 2 to 2/0 in a nickel finish works well. It can be fished either on the bottom or under a float. A fish will seldom swallow a long shank hook, and because of that they usually are easier to remove. A short shank bronze finished hook works well for live bait in sizes 2 to 2/0. O’Shaugnessy and Aberdeen are types of in-line style hooks. O’Shaugnessy are made from heavier wire, should be used in sizes 3/0 to 9/0 with either live or cut bait, and can be fished either on the bottom or under a float. These hooks are good for heavy mouthed or slow biting saltwater and freshwater fish. Aberdeen hooks are made from thinner wire and can be found in micro sizes. One advantage to using a thin wire hook is that it will straighten when snagged if pulled with a hard steady pressure. These hooks are usually used when the fisherman is targeting a particular size fish that matches the hooks capabilities. The Carlisle is a long shank bronze off-set hook that is particularly good for large minnow and worm fishing. Its length helps prevent the fish from swallowing the hook.


Page 26 The Kahle is a wide gap off-set hook that comes in bronze, nickel, and gold finish. It can be used for cut or live bait, bottom fishing or under a float. A fish seldom escapes from this hook. The best sizes for local waters are 4 through 3/0. Tru-Turn Hooks John W. Campbell often fished near his grandfather’s gristmill as a child. After getting his hook hung in the mill; he carefully bent the hook back. Even though this hook had a kink in it, it was his favorite. Years later while playing with a paperclip, John noticed a bent paperclip rotated towards pressure. In spring of 1959; while fishing an Alabama pond he hooked a nice bass. As the fish neared the boat, the bass made a final effort and got away. John began to think and the paperclip idea struck him. So he bent his hook with a bend that was perpendicular to the point. It rotated towards pressure, just like his paperclips and that favorite hook he used as a young boy. The single most important aspect of a hook is its sharpness. Laser honed hooks are the sharpest now available. The sharpness of a hook is easily checked. Place the hook on your fingernail and drag it slowly across. If it does not catch as it is moved, the hook needs sharpening. For smaller hooks up to 5/0, sharpen just the point. Above 5/0, sharpen the edge like a knife. There are a variety of stones, files, and other devices for sharpening hooks, some of which are battery driven. It is a good idea to have a hook sharpener in the tackle box and to check the sharpness of the hook periodically while fishing. If the hook is dull, sharpen or replace it. Barbless hooks are also available. If you wish to practice catch and release, such hooks are excellent. Many fisherman, after catching a number of fish and still wanting to continue fishing but not keep the fish, crimp the barb with pliers so a fish can be removed easily. Line twisting, natural movement of lures and baits, placement of bait at the proper depth or site, and numerous other problems a fisherman must solve in order to catch fish are reasons for swivels, snaps, split

Fishing Resource Manual rings, weights, leaders and other terminal tackle. How and where the angler fishes and which fish are targeted decide which terminal tackle will be used. Whether the fisherman is casting, trolling, bottom fishing, using a float, working from a bridge or pier, or fishing under other conditions, the choice of terminal tackle significantly effects how many fish will be caught. SWIVELS Line twisting is a fundamental problem that must be overcome or it can significantly interfere with casting, particularly with spinning and spincasting reels. A line with subSplit ring, swivel, snap swivel stantial twist is more susceptible to breaking and can change lure or bait action. Swivels are designed to defeat twisting, and also serve as the attachment point for remaining terminal tackle, such as weights, leader, snaps, and hooks or the lure. Swivels come as rated or non-rated. Non-rated swivels do not indicate how much weight they are capable of sustaining. When fishing for small fish, this is not a particularly important consideration, but for fish above 10 pounds, it is better to have a weight tested swivel. Rated swivels usually start at 10 pound test and progress upward. Three-way swivels, used most frequently when the angler needs to have a line to hold the weight and a line to hold the baited hook, do not come rated. Almost all swivels are made of brass and come in three finishes: natural brass, chrome, and blackened. Blackened swivels are recommended. Shiny swivels can cause a fish to hit the swivel rather than the hook, or just the opposite, spook the fish. Swivels are sized like hooks. The following numbering illustrates the progression of smaller to larger: 12, 8, 6, 2, 1, 1/0, 3/0, 5/0. For fishing in the harbor and freshwater, sizes 10 to 5 are the most common sizes required, while for near-shore and off-shore, sizes from 3 to 4/0 will handle most fishing needs.


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feating line twist and are recommended for all fishing situations, and especially for trolling. SNAPS & SNAP SWIVELS There are a variety of types of snaps, and they come with and without swivels. The four most common snaps are the safety pin, the interlock, the coastlock, and duolock. The safety pin snap is the weakest of the snaps, does not have weight ratings, and should not be used for fish larger than two pounds. It is very easy to use and is good for speckled perch/crappie, bream and silver trout. The interlock snap is a strong snap and can be bought weight rated and unrated. The interlock looks like the safety pin snap except the wire tip is bent at a right angle and fits into a hole on the clasp. This gives the snap extra holding power while still being relatively easy to use. The coastlock snap is a wire wrapped snap without a clasp. The loop tip is bent at a right angle and then into a hook, which when attached around the other side of the snap forms a closed loop. It is a strong snap and comes both rated and unrated. The duolock is made of stainless steel. These snaps come rated up to 30 pounds. It is sized differently from other snaps so the angler must judge what size works best. It is a very easy snap to use and is made of one continuous wire wrapped in a unique configuration that gives it unusual strength for its size. If the angler wants to use a snap to attach a lure so quick changes to other lures can be made, it is recommended that just a snap be used and not a snap swivel. In this usage a snap swivel can sometimes alter the way a lure performs. SPLIT RINGS Split rings look like miniature car key rings and have to be forced apart in order to attach something to them. A split ring pliers makes the job of opening and attaching the rings easy. Split rings are used when there is a need to hang hooks on a lure or when a lure’s freedom of movement can be improved by putting a split ring through the screw eye of a lure. They are not a substitute for a snap, but rather an alternative connection which an angler can choose to aid a lure’s natural motion.

SINKERS Every fishing trip involves solving a continuous set of problems. That is why so many people are fascinated with fishing. From the time the angler starts fishing until the equipment is put away for the day, the challenge of locating fish and presenting the bait or lure properly never stops. The creative and proper use of sinkers can help overcome some of the fisherman’s problems. Fishing weights are used to control the depth and location of baits or lures. If water is considered as a column, it is easy to visualize the importance of controlling the depth of presentation. Fish of all types can be located within a column of water, from the surface or top to the bottom or base. After locating fish within the column, a typical concern is getting a bait past certain types of fish so the target species can be caught. Every fisherman has experienced unwanted fish attacking the bait before it can get to the target. Proper weights can help overcome such problems. There are at least 8 weights that are useful in fishing Charlotte County waters. Egg sinker This sinker looks like its namesake and is the most popular of all the sliding sinkers. It has a hole through its center so the line can move freely. To rig the sinker, a line is run through the hole, a plastic bead is then added to act as a cushion between the sinker and the knot, which attaches the line to a swivel. Sinkers from a 1/4 to 2 ounces are the sizes most frequently used in local waters. The remainder of the terminal tackle is leader material and a hook. The egg sinker, because it has no edges or points, does not hold the bottom well. Its chief advantage is lack of resistance. A fish can pick up the bait and not be spooked by the feel of the weight. Conditions which effect the choice of weight are line test, depth of water, strength of current, and size of bait.


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Fishing Resource Manual

Conditions which effect the choice of weight are line flexibility. For test, depth of water, strength of current, and size of bait. example, saltwater fisherman use Bullet weights a split shot when These weights look like a bullet and have a hole live bait fishing that the line passes through. Used most by plastic worm to making castfisherman, they are rigged stationary by jamming a ing easier. In toothpick into the line hole and pinching the line. moving water, a Saltwater fisherman sometimes forget the effective- split shot can be ness of this weight style, which works well when fish- used to keep the ing oyster beds or rocky areas. Its thin profile and lack bait at the proper of edges or points is not as likely to hang up as other depth without types of sliding sinkers. fishing on the bottom. Pyramid sinkers A pinchA three-sided weight, it has a brass eye in its on sinker has a base. In this instance, the base is the top of the weight, slit down its and the point is considered the bottom. With its three length with a sides, the weight offers edges, corners, and a point that flexible metal ear can grip the bottom. It is a favorite of surf fisherman. at each end. Pressing the ears around the line holds the The pyramid is most commonly used with a nylon weight in place. Many fisherman prefer this weight besinker-slide called a fish finder. The sinker slide looks cause of its slim profile and ease of use. It comes in sizes like a figure 8 with its center being a clasp. One loop of from 1/16 to 3/4 ounces. the sinker-slide fits through the brass eye of the weight The rubber core sinker is an improved version and the other loop has a nylon tube attached to it. The of the pinch on sinker. The sinker is placed on the line fishing line passes through the nylon sleeve and allows by squeezing the line through a slot in the sinker as the the angler to play out the bait without recasting. An ad- rubber core is stretched. The rubber core holds the line ditional advantage is a fish can pick up the bait and not without damaging it, and the flexible rubber allows for be warned by the feel of a weight. quick weight changes or repositioning. Dipsey swivel sinker This weight looks like a large rain drop with a brass swivel eye in the smaller end. While it can be rigged to allow line to pass through the eye, it is used almost exclusively as a drop weight on a three way swivel rig. Because of its swivel, it does not twist the line. While not widely used, it can be effective in fast moving water. Split shot, pinch-on, and rubber core These weights attach on the line. A split shot is the most well known of these weights and is a favorite of freshwater panfish anglers. It is most commonly used with a small bobber, but can also add just the proper weight when freelining. Made in sizes from BB to a 1/2- ounce, they are attached by squeezing the slit shut on the line with a pliers. The best characteristic of this type weight is its

Specialty weights: keel, button, and cigar The keel sinker is designed for trolling. It is shaped like a flat triangle with three unequal sides. There are brass swivels and eyes attached at either end of the longest side of the weight. This configuration allows two thing to happen, first the line is not twisted as the bait is trolled, and secondly, the bait or lure can be trolled at alternate depths. These weights come in sizes from 1/2 to 8 ounces. The button weight is used primarily as a fixed weight for straight drop line fishing. It has brass eyes and barrel swivels at each end. The cigar sinker has a slimmer profile than the button, but also has eyes and swivels at each end. It is an in-line sinker that may also be used for trolling like a keel weight.


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LEADERS & FLOATS To catch a fish an angler must put the bait where the fish is, and when the fish is hooked, the line must be strong enough to resist the teeth or bony jaws of the fish so it can not break off. A variety of leader material and floats are available to help the angler place the bait at the appropriate depth and resist the fish's efforts to get loose. There are two basic uses for leaders: to make the connection between the line and the bait invisible, and to have the strength to resist the teeth or boney jaws of fish. It is difficult to achieve both purposes. TYPES OF LEADERS There are four types of leader: monofilament, fluorocarbon, single strand stainless steel, and cable twisted wire Monofilament & fluorocarbon: Today the most common leader ma terial used is fluorocarbon because it is neartly invisible to the fish. fish Leader should be at least double the test weight of the primary line. The Surgeon's Knot is recommended for attaching the leader to the line. (see section on knots) Single strand stainless: Used mostly in trolling situations, the wire comes in a coil and is rigged using a Haywire Twist. How to tie this knot is clearly illustrated on each package of coiled wire. The fundamental disadvantage of single strand wire is it can kink which severely weakens it. Cable twisted wire: This material is actually many small strands of wire twisted together. It is much more flexible than single strand stainless and can be bought in either coil or pre-rigged. It comes in a wide range of test weights. The material comes either nylon coated or non-coated. The coated wire is subject to scarring and may need to be replaced more frequently than non-coated.

FLOATS Most floats are made from plastic, plastic foam or wood and have two fundamental uses. First, floats place the bait or lure at a controlled depth, and secondly, they serve as a visual strike indicator to the angler. There are a variety of floats that can be used in local waters, and include: pencil or quill, fixed, sliding popping cork, and balloon.

SALTWATER FLOATS

Green corks are weighted The two most popular saltwater floats are the popWhite corks are not ping cork and the sliding float. Both floats are made from plastic foam, come weighted or unweighted, and slit or unslit. The only advantage of using a float with a slit is that it can be put on and off the line quickly. The disadvantage is they sometime fly off when fighting a fish. The poppin cork has a cupped top which produces a popping sound when the angler snaps the fishing line tight with a sharp pull of the rod. The sound serves as a fish attraction. These floats also Poppinʼ Corks. You pull out the ʻpinʼ lay your line in the slot and come with a rattler. A RATTLER is a bullet shaped glass or metal podslide the pin back in on top of tyhe line to hold it in place. that encases steel pellets and makes a noise when shaken. These have also proven to attract fish. The weighted model sits upright in the water while the unweighted model rests on its side unless sufficient weight is put on the line below the float to make it stand upright.


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Fishing Resource Manual

A RATTLER is a bullet shaped glass or metal pod that encases steel pellets and makes a noise when shaken. These have also proven to attract fish. The weighted model of this float sits upright in the water while the unweighted model rests on its side unless sufficient weight is put on the line below the float to make it stand upright. Popping cork floats are normally not used in water over six feet deep, and in Charlotte County, are used extensively for fishing the shallow flats throughout the harbor. While used primarily with bait, these floats are excellent for suspending jigs, which are lead head lures that use a small plastic lure threaded on the hook The sliding float has a line threaded through the hollow sleeve in the center which allows the float to slide up and down the line. To use this float some type of stop must be attached to the line above the float so the bait fixed to the hook stops at the proper depth. There are various types of stops available at tackle shops. Some anglers tie a rubber band around the line at the proper line depth and snip off the excess, leaving a hard rubber knot.

The proper rigging of this float is stopper, bead, float, and additional terminal tackle which might include an on line weight and hook or lure. If the angler is using an unweighted sliding float, a weight will be need to make it pop properly. There is also a popping cork float which has a bead inset with a brass wire wrapped eye at the top. The wire runs through the float and is attached at the bottom to a swivel with a safety pin snap. Some anglers remove the safety pin snap and tie directly to the swivel to avoid possible failure of the safety pin snap.

Balloons are easily carried and used. They do not take up much space in a tackle box, yet are quickly inflated.

After tying off the balloon, tie the line, at the desired depth, to the excess material below the balloon knot. A weight can be attached to the line to properly suspend the bait. This rig is particularly effective when there is a need to drift the bait a long distance from the fisherman. The balloon usually breaks during the fighting of a hooked fish. Freshwater Floats Fixed floats attach directly to the line. Those that use any type of wire fastener that is not brass or stainless steel can only be used in freshwater repeatedly because of the corrosive effects of saltwater. The most popular freshwater floats are the plastic round bobber or pencil style floats. They are inexpensive, can be attached or moved quickly on the line, and used for both casting or pole fishing. Balsa wood floats come in a variety of sizes and shapes and while used mostly for freshwater have some sizes and shapes that are also for saltwater.


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Summer Fishing

Fishing Resource Manual

On Charlotte Harbor there is a hot bite that starts about 6:15 as dawn is breaking so you need to have your lines in the water early. The ideal tide is a high incom ing to the top of the outgoing tide w hen you’re fishing the bushes. Redfish, snook and occasionally a small tarpon will wander into the shallows, feed along the mangrove edges and also skirt the oyster bars along the flats. The best approach first thing in the morning is to use a top-water bait like a small Zarra Spook or a Yozuri minnow or similar bait where you can impart a “walk-the-dog-cadence” which will bring tremendous strikes from redfish. Bait fish are very plentiful in summer and the scaled sardines about 1 - 2 inches are everywhere in the Harbor, so small baits are a great ticket. Larger plugs will sometimes be avoided by the fish so you have to match the hatch – use the same size and appearance bait as what the fish are naturally eating. Typically after the first hour of the morning you’ll notice that instead of blasting your baits the fish will start to boil on them and miss them, then shortly thereafter they will stop hitting your top water baits completely. That is the signal to go sub surface. If you locate an area where you’ve had a lot of blowups it’s good to go back to it with a sub surface lure like a jerk shad or maybe a spoon to see if you can still pick off a few fish. Ultimately, the bite will quiet down as the water warms up so the thing to do is go out and catch bait then come back to some of the areas where you had strikes first thing in the morning.

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How to Hold a Big Fish Flipinʼ a live bait up under the mangroves and not getting it stuck in the branches takes practice.

A fish spends almost itʼs entire life swimming horizontally. All of itʼs internal organs are suspended in that weightless horizontal position. When you take a big fish out of water it is no longer weightless so when you hold it vertically you can damage itʼs internal organs. Bigger fish held by the jaw can also suffer a broken jaw, thatʼs why it is important to support large fish with two hands, one under the belly, and hold them horizontally flat. Do you know what kind of fish these are?


Fishing OFFSHORE for Permit Page 44

Stalking big, wary permit on the flats is one of the most difficult ways to pursue these fish leaving even the most accomplished anglers contemplating easier quarry on many an occasion. While many permit are taken in shallow water situations, bigger specimens are more easily targeted on deep water reefs and wrecks. Here permit are less skittish and easier to fool which greatly tips the odds in our favor. Wreck permit in Southwest Florida tend to run in the 10 to 30 pound range and are available well into the mid summer months. The first order of business is to locate a school of permit. GPS numbers for our artificial reefs and wrecks are readily available via navigational charts, the internet, and local tackle shops. The best locations start at 10 miles out and receive less fishing pressure than the near shore structures. Once you arrive at your selected destination carefully monitor your depth finder to locate the structure. You can also keep a watchful eye out for packs of cuda that tend to give away the wrecks location by stacking up right on top of them. Permit may not always hold right over a wreck so a little hunting may be required. Run a concentric search pattern in the general area of the wreck and watch for permit cruising 5 to 15 feet below the surface in large pods. Once the fish are located it is best to deploy a marker buoy so that you can anchor up tide of these schools or run successive drifts past the schooling fish. Wreck fishing for permit tends to be best on clear calm days when the fish can be easily sighted and tend to feed more aggressively. Permit tend to vacate the upper water column and seek deeper water once the winds and seas kick up. When this occurs their appetites wane and they can become difficult to locate. Mr. Permit also tends to feed more heavily during strong outgoing tides. During slack and incoming tides schools of permit feed poorly and will often break up into smaller constantly moving pods which become increasingly harder to locate. The best bait for permit are small live crabs. Pass crabs, sand crabs, and blue crabs with a carapace approximately the size of a half dollar piece will out fish any other lure or bait hands down. When crabs are not available, shrimp tipped jigs, live lined shrimp on small live bait hooks, and even Berkley Gulp shrimp fished on a jig or a 3/0 circle hook will do in a pinch. When fishing with crabs utilize 3/0 circle hooks and either cast to or free line the crab with the current to the waiting permit. When fish are holding in the 10 -15 foot range adding a 1/8 ounce split shot to get the bait down to the fishes eye level will increase your hook up percentage. To get the best fight out of a permit and to fool

Fishing Resource Manual

their excellent eyesight in clear offshore waters it is recommended to utilize medium light tackle spinning gear filled with 20 pound test Power Pro braided line and 3 to 5 feet of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. Permit have soft rubbery mouths and pose no threat to light leaders. When an angler does get broken off it is usually due to the permit taking the line down into the wreck or Mister Cuda developing a taste for crab. Once hooked permit fight hard. They turn their silvery grey, saucer shaped bodies sideways to use the current to their advantage and beat those powerful sickle shaped tails to burn up your drag with long, stubborn, deep circling runs. Offshore permit fight dirty and will use every trick in the book to cut you off on any available bottom wreckage.

WEATHER RADAR IMAGES

Before venturing too far offshore most anglers check the radar images for rain and storms. On a map like this the arrows point to the direction of the wind while the numbers show the height of the top of the clouds.


A Few More Knots Page 46

TheDouble Uni-knot The double Uni-knot is actually a pair of Uni-knots tied back to back and is versatile because it can be used to join light monofilament backing to super braid lines when filling a spool, any two lines of equal or nearly equal diameter, or any light line to heavier mono leader material, especially if you first double the light line. Begin the knot by overlapping the lines by at least six inches. Hold both lines together with your left hand and make a loop with the tag end of the line that exits to the right. Then make five wraps around both lines inside the loop and exit the loop with the tag end of that line. Moisten that portion of the knot and pull tightly making sure the wraps do not overlap and are snug against each other. Switch hands and repeat the procedure, but in the opposite direction. If you are tying two lines of unequal diameters together, use less wraps (notice that the illustration shows three wraps — if the lines are of equal or nearly equal diameters, use the same number of wraps). Then moisten that portion of the knot and pull tightly, again making sure the wraps do not overlap. Now, moisten the space between the two Uniknots and by pulling on both standing lines in opposite directions, draw the knots together. Make sure there is no space between the knots and they tightly abut each other.Trim the tag ends and go fishing.

Fishing Resource Manual

The Improved Clinch Knot The Improved Clinch Knot is a knot with about a 95 percent breaking strength when tied properly. It is mostly used for joining light lines (15-pound test or lighter) to hooks, lures and flies. Heavier line can be used if only three turns are placed in the knot — it is just too difficult to snug the knot properly with more turns. Inset the line through the eye of the hook and make five turns (3 or 4 for heavy lines). Then push the end of the line through the small space (loop) at the hook eye. Then slip the end of the line through the large loop. Moisten the knot and pull the knot tight by holding the hook in one hand and the line in the other. Pull the standing part of the line and not the end of the line (tag end) that was pushed through the loops. Trim off the excess.


Fishing Resource Manual

The Duncan Loop / Uni-Knot The Duncan loop is also referred to as the Uniknot and is rated at 95 to 100 percent breaking strength. Itʼs a favorite of many anglers because itʼs easy to tie and forms a loop that allows a lure, hook or fly to swing freely. And it cinches down when a fish strikes absorbing some of the shock of the strike. Once closed the loop can be slid open again by using a thumbnail. Since the knot is in the water when the loop closes, it is lubricated eliminating friction that can weaken it. Begin the knot by passing about 6 inches of leader through the eye of the hook and fold the tag end so it lays parallel to the standing portion. Then grab the two pieces of leader with one hand and fold the tag end back towards the hook with the other hand and begin making wraps around the two parallel leader segments. Make 6 wraps around the two parallel leader pieces away from the hook eye, but inside the loop formed by the fold back. Then moisten the knot and pull the tag end away from the hook eye until the wraps are snug. Any size loop-opening can formed at this point. Trim the tag end and go fishing. This is also a good knot for attaching line to the spool of a reel.

Page 47

The Blood Knot The blood knot — often called a barrel knot — is a neat, clean and strong knot for joining similarly sized sections of lines (example: adding more line to a reel). However, by doubling the standing line and following the same directions, a larger diameter line (like a leader) can be joined to smaller diameters. Begin by crossing the two sections of line forming an X. Leave enough ʻextraʼ line to complete the knot on each side of the X. Hold one side of the X (two pieces of line) in one hand while wrapping the tag end of the other side of the X around the standing line with the other hand. Use three wraps with heavy line and five to seven with light lines. Insert the tag end into the loop made by the first wrap near your fingers. Using your other hand, pinch the wraps keeping the loop in the middle open and make the same number of wraps around the other standing line with the tag end. Then pass the second tag end through the same loop as the first tag end, from the opposite side of the loop. Make sure the tag ends stick out from the loop far enough so they donʼt slip out when you tighten the knot. Moisten the knot and quickly and firmly pull on both sections of standing lines. Do not pull on the tag ends. The ʻbarrelsʼ on both sides of the knot should form neat, tight coils. Trim the tag ends close to the knot.


Fishing Resource Manual

Page 49

One Secret of Fishing: Apex Predators Disect a fishʼs stomach to see what it is feeding on Michael Heller School Director Every year, as part of our 8 week program we ask the FWC stop in at each of the five schools and make a presentation to our students. The exact nature of the presentation is left up to the FWC personnel who appear. All this is coordinated out of the FWC field office in Murdock. The FWC staff who makes the presentations are field and lab workers from the Murdock facility. Most of the presentations to date have centered around the stock sampling that the Murdock office does every day in Charlotte Harbor. Chrystal Murray and John Hadden are two of the people in the water pulling the huge nets and recording the fish one by one. Part of the sampling includes examining the stomach contents. Chrystal and John induce warm water, pumped into the fish to make them regurgitate. They explained all this in an AV presentation to the class and then came the fun part. Chrystal and John had bagged up the stomach contents from snook, flounder, mullet, mackerel and a slew of other fish caught the day before and brought it all to class, iced down in labeled plastic bags. In their power-point presentation they had explained the food chain from the ‘Trophic Levels” perspective: Level 1) Primary Producers (organisms that make their own food like

plankton, seagrass, algae and leaves (in our area, mangrove leaves). Level 2) Primary Consumers (those that eat the primary producers) like mullet, barnacles, oysters, shells and clams. Level 3) Secondary Consumers (those that eat the primary consumers) like sheepshead, crawfish, crabs, shrimp and pompano. Level 4) Apex Predators (those that eat both primary and secondary consumers) like largemouth bass, snook, redfish, spotted sea trout, sharks, cobia, Spanish mackerel and Gulf flounder. “To catch fish you have to know what they are eating,” Chrystal told the class. The students donned rubber gloves, poured the stomach contents into trays and dissect them to see what was inside. Students then identified the stomach contents and listed them on a Trophic Levels and Food Web form Chrystal and John had made up for the class. Then the students looked over the results and decided what bait or lure was best to use to catch the different species at this time of year. This was the essence of our Be The Fish approach to teaching kids about fishing. Think like a fish (or like a fish eats in this case) to catch fish. John and Chrystal went way over the top in preparing for this class and it was greatly appreciated by the students, teachers and parents in the room. Chrystal and John had our kids sitting with pencil and paper figuring out fishing. That’s a big kudos for the them and for the FWC. The teacher of the class at Punta Gorda and I left the building together after the last student was picked up. We were marveling at how good the kids were. No flying cobia stomachs, no half digested sardines sailing through the air, no mushy touches, not even a messy table. It just couldn’t have worked out any better. Thanks again, John and Chrystal.


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

SNOOK

E

qually at home in both fresh and salt water, the common snook is one of Florida’s premier game fish. Many saltwater anglers consider these powerful aquatic gladiators to be the ultimate challenge. The opportunity to meet this challenge was almost eliminated in the 1950s when snook stocks plummeted. Shoreline development, fishing pressure, and loss of coastal habitats all contributed to the decline. As a result, common snook were eventually designated as a game fish—restricted to recreational harvest only. Further fishing regulations were established to protect snook, and stocks of this versatile and vigorous fish are now rebounding.

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

sword-spined snook (Centropomus ensiferus) is named for the length of the second anal fin spine. Reaching only about 12 inches in length, this species is also the rarest and has been reported only in the freshwater canals and rivers of southeast Florida. Usually, neither the sword-spined nor the tarpon snook grows large enough to be caught legally by anglers. The tarpon snook (Centropomus pectinatus) gets its name from its upturned tarpon-like snout. It has a more compressed body than the other four species and an orange-yellow pelvic fin with a blackish tip. It may grow to a length of 20 inches and is most commonly found in shaded, brackish-water pools. The small-scale fat snook (Centropomus parallelus), a rotund species with a deep body, may reach 20 inches in length. This second-largest member of Florida’s snook family is found from the Lake Okeechobee watershed south to the Florida Keys. Nearly identical in appearance to the smallscale fat snook, the large-scale fat snook (Centropomus mexicanus) was confirmed in 2006. Currently this species is found only on the east coast of Florida from Sebastian to Jupiter. Even expert anglers may have trouble telling the two species apart—distinguishing characteristics in the

Tackle Busters

Description Worldwide, 13 species of the genus Centropomus occur in the tropics and subtropics of North and South America; at least five of these species occur in Florida. Along with the common snook, the other four species are sword-spined snook, tarpon snook, small-scale fat snook, and large-scale fat snook. These latter four species tend to occupy riverine areas. The smallest of the five Florida species, the

Scientific name Centropomus undecimalis is the scientific name of the common snook. Size To about 4 feet, 50 pounds Range South Carolina to southern Brazil; in the U.S., common only

in Florida

and Texas

Habitat Throughout estuary and nearshore waters, common along mangrove shorelines, in brackish streams, and in freshwater rivers and canals

Status Only recreational harvest is permitted, with size limits, bag limits, and open and closed seasons. Snook art after Diane Rome Peebles painting.


large-scale fat snook include larger scales than the small-scale and fewer gill rakers. The largest of the five species, the common snook (Centropomus undecimalis) is also the most abundant, wide-ranging, and sought-after. Not surprisingly, then, it is the best-studied of the five, and it is from these studies that most of the following information is derived. Snook (in south Florida, it rhymes with “snoop”) is a streamlined, extremely powerful fish. It is silvery green, with a distinctive black lateral line that runs from the edge of the gill cover to the tip of its tail. This stripe accounts for its common names of “linesider” and “sergeant fish.” The fins are sometimes a bright canary yellow. Snook have a long, concave snout and a lower jaw that extends beyond the upper jaw. The large mouth is filled with brush-like teeth. Although snook feed primarily on other fish, their carnivorous diet also includes shrimp, crabs, and a variety of other organisms. Snook lie in wait while currents funnel the food to their vicinity, and then they ambush their prey with lightning quickness. Snook may live more than 20 years and reach a length of 50 inches and a weight of more than 40 pounds. However, in the last five years, most snook caught by anglers on the east coast average 9.4 pounds, and gulf coast catches average 7.2 pounds. The largest snook recorded from Florida weighed 44 pounds, 3 ounces, and was landed in Fort Myers in 1984 using conventional tackle. The largest snook caught in Florida using fly fishing tackle was taken in Chokoloskee in 1993 and weighed 30 pounds, 4 ounces. The world record, as certified by the International Game Fish Association, is a common snook landed in Costa Rica in 1978 that weighed 53 pounds, 10 ounces. Snook are protandric hermaphrodites, meaning that they may reverse sex from male to female, an uncommon adaptation in fish. Much about this process in snook is unknown, but scientists do know that the largest and oldest fish are most likely to be females and that this sex reversal is brought about by a change in the size of individuals within a group of snook. In other words, a group that loses its largest fish has lost

females, so some males might undergo sex reversal—a process that occurs in as few as 60 to 90 days.

Distribution and Habitat Snook are cold-sensitive fish generally restricted to tropical and subtropical waters. They prefer moving tides and are dependent upon structures like rock outcroppings or mangroves for shelter, which accounts for their tendency to “hug the shores” of inlets and estuaries. In Florida, snook are abundant from Sebastian Inlet south on the east coast and from Tarpon Springs south on the gulf coast. They are also found in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas and Central America and in the Caribbean throughout the West Indies. In the Atlantic, their range extends as far south as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tolerant of a wide range of salinities, snook have been found from 40 miles up the Peace River at Fort Meade to eight miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, they easily adapt to just about every natural condition of inshore waters except cold weather. Snook are highly sensitive to temperature changes. If the temperature falls to 60°F, snook become sluggish and “cold-shocked”; if the temperature falls below that or if it decreases rapidly, snook may die. This limits the northern range of snook to areas with mild winters. In these northern areas, snook keep warm during winter by moving to rivers or protected, deep basins in inshore waters. Nevertheless, a severe cold snap in the winter of 1989–1990 may have killed as many as 60,000 snook in Tampa Bay. Even in south Florida, sudden freezes may cause high mortality.

Like manatees, snook often seek refuge from the cold in the thermal discharges of power plants and in springs.

Life History Snook are not generally long-distance travelers; they

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Fishing Notes

mostly move between their wintering grounds in rivers or protected basins and their spawning grounds near inlets or the mouths of estuaries. Most snook tagged off Naples were recaptured within 10 miles of their release site, and tagged fish released inside Tampa Bay remained in the bay. However, east coast snook appear to venture farther from home, and snook tagged in Jupiter and Lake Worth inlets have been recaptured as far north as Cape Canaveral and as far south as Florida Bay. Recent studies suggest that some snook in Florida waters even travel coast to coast via the Lake Okeechobee navigational system. Like salmon, snook return to the same spawning sites each summer; one Tampa Bay snook was recaptured at the same site for three consecutive summers. Prior to spawning, sexually mature snook congregate in large numbers in natural “staging areas.” Spawning activity may begin as early as April and extend into October. It is more intense during new- or full-moon phases and may occur daily. Major spawning activity is centered around months with long daylight hours, generally June and July, and tapers off in August and September. Mature females may produce more than 1.5 million eggs with each spawn and may spawn every other day in the early part of the season. As is common with many marine organisms, only a small fraction of the eggs survive. Scientists speculate that snook reproduction in Florida also suffers from additional cold-induced stresses because snook are tropical fishes, and our state waters are at the northern limit of their range. Snook eggs hatch and develop into larvae about 28 hours after fertilization. These larvae drift with currents for 15–20 days. As the larvae develop into juveniles, they move into the upper reaches of estuaries, seeking quiet, secluded areas with overhanging shade. Their range of movement increases as they grow, but they usually remain in protected areas until they reach sexual maturity, which takes 2–3 years for males and 3–4 years for females. Females live longer than males and are almost always larger than males of the same age.

The snook is to inshore saltwater anglers what a largemouth bass is to avid freshwater anglers. Once hooked, the snook’s speed and strength strain the vocabulary as well as the fishing line. “Tacklebuster,” “linestretcher,” and “acrobat” are just a few of the terms used by snook anglers to describe these silver bullets. Indeed, although snook is one of the tastiest of all fish, with white, flaky meat that is high in protein and low in calories, it is valued more today for its fighting spirit than its flavor. Anglers seeking snook are advised to fish for them from one hour before high tide through the first three hours of the outgoing tide. Live bait such as pinfish, croakers, fingerling tilapia, and sardine are preferred; 90% of all snook caught are taken this way. About 70% of the fish caught by recreational anglers are taken during summer months, and anglers who find the large staging areas are likely to have the best luck; however, it is not recommended to target a species during its spawning season. Among those gathering spots are Rattlesnake Key in Tampa Bay and, on the east coast, Jupiter, Lake Worth, and Sebastian inlets.

Management and Protection Snook were harvested commercially until 1957, when declining populations prompted the State to establish restrictions that effectively barred commercial harvest. Nevertheless, snook stocks continued to decline in many areas of the state. In one study, researchers noted a 70% decrease in the number of snook in the Naples–Marco Island area from 1979 to 1981. In 1982, snook received further protection when it was deemed a Species of Special Concern, a designation that was removed in 2001. Currently, the snook is listed as a protected species. Habitat losses associated with the dredging and filling of mangrove areas are one likely cause of the decline, as well as increased fishing pressure from recreational anglers. Additionally, spraying pesticides to control mosquitoes causes high mortality among larval snook. Given the continued stresses on snook

3


populations, further restrictions on recreational harvest have been implemented. These regulations, along with the funds generated by the sale of a snook stamp, appear to be aiding the recovery of snook populations throughout Florida.

These tag studies are being augmented by the use of sophisticated computer software known as the Geographic Information System. By gathering data about the sizes and capture sites of tagged fish and then overlaying that information on computergenerated digital images of Florida waterways, scientists are beginning to identify those habitats that are necessary for snook development and survival. FWC can then work to protect these critical habitats. State researchers are testing techniques to spawn snook in hatcheries, but so far they have had little luck. Although methods to induce spawning artificially have been successful with red drum, such methods have not been fully effective with the more sensitive and easily stressed snook. In fact, the reproductive systems of many snook shut down within days of capture. Fingerling snook, on the other hand, are being successfully raised in hatcheries. Eggs are removed from adults in the field and immediately fertilized with sperm collected in a similar manner. The eggs hatch within 20–28 hours. In another method, researchers transport reproductive females and ripe males to the hatchery and inject the females with hormones that help them overcome the effects of stress and induce ovulation. The eggs are then collected and fertilized in the same manner as they are in the field. In the summer of 1985, approximately 100,000 inch-long fingerlings were produced in 1-acre ponds in Texas from eggs obtained from Tampa Bay snook. The first releases of hatchery-reared snook into marine waters occurred in the summer of 1996, when 101 fish raised in captivity for six years were released near Fort Myers, and 519 fingerlings were released in Tampa Bay. Knowing more about the life cycle and habitat requirements of snook and fostering a sense of stewardship among the anglers who treasure these famed silver warriors will help ensure that these magnificent fish continue to thrive in Florida’s bays and estuaries for generations to come.

Research Fishing license revenue and the federal Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) Program are important sources of funding for sport fish research. The SFR Program is a “user pays, user benefits” system funded by a tax on sales of recreational fishing equipment and boat fuel. The program supplies three dollars for every one dollar provided by the State for projects that improve fishing and boating opportunities.

About 2% of all snook caught and released by anglers die as a result of stress or wounds associated with the capture. The long-term monitoring of snook behavior and movements is one of the research projects financed in part by the snook stamp and the SFR Program and conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Scientists have tagged more than 39,000 snook in Tampa Bay as well as in other parts of the state. Recovery of these tags helps biologists establish movement patterns, estimate population abundance, and examine the range of ages within the population. Anglers who catch tagged fish are asked to report their finds by calling the toll-free telephone number shown on the tag. During the open season, FWC also encourages anglers to practice catch-andrelease fishing for snook rather than keeping their daily limit.

June 2010

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

RED DRUM

O

ne of Florida’s most popular sport fish, red drum is also one of the state’s most widespread estuarine inhabitants. Red drum are prodigious spawners that may produce tens of millions of eggs each year. Their relative hardiness and prolific nature make them ideal for rearing in hatcheries. Stringent fishing restrictions have been instrumental in restoring their populations.

others have none. In 1997, fish biologists identified a red drum that had hundreds of spots. The body is elongated and thick, with a gently arched back and sloping head. The large scales on the upper body are rough, while those on the breast area are smooth. Red drum have two dorsal fins; the front fin has sharp spines, and the back fin has soft rays resembling a flat-top haircut. The adult’s tail is broad and either flat at the end or slightly concave. The long pectoral (side) fins are rust-colored. Red drum colors vary according to where the fish lives. Those in the Gulf of Mexico are a lighter red than those that reside in muddy bays. Occupants of white, sandy bottoms have light, muted colors. When taken from the water, the fish may turn a darker red. Red drum in Florida may live 25 to 35 years. Atlantic-coast reds are generally larger than those on the gulf coast. Although the largest ever caught weighed 94 pounds, the largest recorded in Florida was 52 pounds 5 ounces and was taken in Cocoa in 1996. The largest caught in Florida with fly-fishing tackle was landed in 1995 in the Banana River and weighed 43 pounds.

Marine Musicians

Description Also called redfish, channel bass, spottail, red bass, and simply “reds,” red drum are identified by the large spot on the tail. Their common name describes both their color and the “drumming” sound they make during spawning and when taken from the water. This drumming is produced by special muscles rubbing against the inflated air bladder, like fingers rubbing a balloon. Red drum are reddish brown on the back, fading to white below. Juveniles have a copper or bronze tint. Most red drum have one distinctive black spot at the base of the tail, but some have several spots, and

Scientific Name Size

Sciaenops ocellatus

Range

 rom Massachusetts to Key West along the Atlantic coast and throughout the Gulf F of Mexico

Habitat Status

 n average can grow to 40 inches, 40 pounds on the Gulf of Mexico coast; 45 O inches, 52 pounds on the Atlantic coast

Juveniles live in seagrass meadows and over muddy and sand bottoms in inshore estuaries. Adults normally live in open oceanic and gulf waters. Only recreational harvest of red drum is permitted

Red drum art after Diane Rome Peebles painting.


Range

follow females for hours while drumming loudly and butting them. Often, several males pursue one female. The males’ colors intensify dramatically during courtship; their bellies turn stark white, and their flanks and backs turn bronze. Just after dark, they shudder, and the female releases a milky cloud of eggs and the male a cloud of sperm. Females may shed 1 million eggs in a single spawn—enough to fill a quart jar—and they may spawn every three to five days. Over an entire spawning season, they may produce tens of millions of eggs, but very few will survive to adulthood. The fertilized eggs, about 1 millimeter in diameter, are clear and contain oil globules that keep them afloat as they are carried shoreward by the tide. The eggs hatch within 20 to 30 hours. Each larval fish has an attached yolk that provides nutrients for its first three days. After the yolk is completely absorbed, the larvae feed on tiny floating animals called plankton until they reach the estuarine nursery areas. An early, severe winter following spawning can make the larvae sluggish and unable to capture plankton. The fragile larvae are susceptible to changes in salinity and grow best in about 30 parts salt per 1,000 parts water. After this stage, lasting about 2½ weeks, gradual salinity variations are not a serious problem. In the estuary, the juveniles settle along the edges of seagrass beds and other dense, submerged vegetation where they are protected until they can swim and feed on the bottom. At about one inch long, the young fish begin to gather in schools. They grow rapidly, and by one year old, they may be 13 to 14 inches long. Red drum continue to grow throughout their lives, although after they are about three feet long, they gain more in girth than in length. Juveniles less than one year old move in and out of backwater channels and canals as they develop and may remain in the estuary for up to four years. Adults move out of the estuaries and join large aggregations of sexually mature fish. Although some spawn inshore, most spawn at nearshore entrances to estuaries. In general, Florida red drum are not long-distance travelers and tend to remain in the area in which they were spawned. In tagging studies of immature red drum on Florida’s gulf coast, 50% to 85% were recaptured within six miles of their original release site.

Red drum occur in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Key West and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They are rare in extreme southern Florida, along the Atlantic coast north of the Chesapeake Bay, and along the Mexican coast south of Vera Cruz. Most of their life cycle is spent in nearshore waters, so their fishery is managed mainly by states rather than federal agencies. Red drum thrive in a wide range of salinities and temperatures, an adaptation that suits their versatile lifestyle. Juveniles can tolerate fresh water, whereas larger reds prefer higher salinities. They are comfortable from 50°F to about 81.5°F. Small red drum can withstand a greater range, from about 36°F to 91°F. They are vulnerable to sudden drops in temperatures, however, and move into warmer, deeper waters during cold spells.

Life History Given their relatively long lives, red drum mature at a young age. Males can spawn at about two years old and four pounds, whereas females are sexually mature at about four years old and 13 pounds. They begin spawning in fall when waters cool and daylight hours decrease. Most spawn near passes and inlets, but reds in the Everglades area may travel offshore, and those in Brevard County’s Mosquito and northern Indian River lagoons spawn within the estuary. Spawning season in the Gulf of Mexico runs from August to mid-November, peaking in September. Atlantic red drum may begin as early as July and continue through December, peaking in September or October. Spawning is often triggered by new- or fullmoon phases.

Generally, red drum spawn in fall when the water is cooler and the days contain 10 hours of sunlight Red drum have an energetic and elaborate courtship ritual. Beginning in late afternoon, males

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Management Efforts

Although they sometimes feed at the surface or in midwater, red drum are primarily bottom feeders. They are often seen in shallows browsing head-down with their tails out of the water—a behavior called “tailing.” Their fondness for tasty crabs and shrimp probably contributes to their own delicate flavor and tender white meat. Red drum locate food by sight, touch, and vacuuming or biting the bottom. As red drum grow, their food preferences change. Juveniles up to two years old select tiny crustaceans such as copepods and crabs, whereas older juveniles favor crabs and fish. Red drum feed primarily in the early morning and late afternoon and are voracious eaters whose penchant for lunging at almost any natural bait endears them to anglers. Mangroves and marsh grasses indirectly play a critical role in the diet of red drum in southwestern and southern Florida. Fish, crabs, and shrimp feed on mangrove leaves that fall into the water and decay, and red drum feast on the fish, crabs, and shrimp. Because estuaries are vital nursery grounds, deterioration of water quality or loss of suitable habitat in these areas may limit the number of young fish that become reproductive adults.

Beginning in 1986, state and federal governments began enacting regulations to protect red drum, reducing recreational catches and banning commercial harvests in Florida in 1989. Annual red drum landings then declined from 2.1 million in the mid1980s to about 250,000 in 1993. Recreational harvests are still allowed year-round, but there are bag and size limits. Since 1993, recreational harvests have increased to about 600,000 fish in 2008 because more anglers have targeted this rapidly growing, easily accessible nearshore fish. The growing emphasis on catch-and-release fishing may lower future recreational landings. The red drum population is currently meeting management goals because regulations were established when the fishery was depleted. This Florida fishery is considered a success and a positive outcome of fisheries regulations. Since 1988, scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute have reared red drum in the State hatchery at Port Manatee and released them into the wild. Using 20- to 30-pound wild-caught red drum as brood stock, scientists manipulate water temperature and hours of daylight in order to stimulate the fish to spawn on demand. The eggs, carefully tended, hatch in about 24 hours. The larvae are reared to juveniles of various sizes and then released into the wild, where their survival is evaluated. Scientists hope that this process can successfully rebuild native stocks. From 1988 through 2004, more than 6 million juvenile red drum were released into Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Biscayne Bay, Indian River, and estuaries in Collier and Volusia counties.

Economic Importance Throughout history, people have caught red drum for food and recreation off the Atlantic seaboard from Virginia to Georgia. In Florida, red drum were caught mainly for sustenance until the growth of transportation networks and markets allowed fish to be shipped long distances. A commercial fishery for red drum began in the 1850s, but since the early 1980s, the majority of Florida’s red drum catch has been taken by recreational anglers. For example, the recreational harvest in 1985 totaled 2.3 million pounds, whereas the commercial harvest accounted for less than half a million pounds. In the 1970s, Florida’s red drum populations began to decline. Red drum apparently disappeared from Biscayne Bay—possibly because of declining water quality, loss of habitat, and diversion of freshwater flows. The surging popularity of spicy, blackened redfish in the early 1980s caused similar declines along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast.

Because Florida’s east- and west-coast red drum differ genetically, researchers release hatchery-reared juveniles only into their respective populations. Three sizes of hatchery-reared juveniles have been released: 1 to 2 inches long, 3 to 4 inches long, and 6 inches or longer. The smallest juveniles are

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Project Tampa Bay

about 35 days old, and the largest are about 8-10 months old. By studying how well these various age groups do on their own, researchers determine which size is economical to produce and is reasonably able to survive in the wild. Information from anglers is important in tracking the success of the hatchery program. In Biscayne Bay, scientists successfully established a small population of hatchery-reared red drum to replace a wild one that either had been very small or had nearly disappeared decades ago. Many of the hatcheryreared red drum have external tags. Anglers who catch tagged fish are asked to report their finds by calling the toll-free telephone number shown on the tag. Anglers have reported catching about 17% of the hatchery-reared fish released in the Indian River during the late 1990s, whereas anglers have reported only 0.42% of the larger red drum released in Biscayne Bay. A supplemental monitoring program samples fish populations to find hatchery-reared juveniles too small for anglers to catch. This program also provides information about which habitat types are more likely to be vital to the survival of these young fish. Fishing license revenue and the federal Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) Program are important sources of funding for sport fish research. The SFR Program is a “user pays, user benefits” system funded by a tax on sales of recreational fishing equipment and motor boat fuel. The program supplies three dollars for every one dollar provided by the State for projects that improve fishing and boating opportunities.

This major stock enhancement research project began in 1999 to determine the most cost-effective size of hatchery-reared red drum as well as when and where to release them to optimize survival. Beginning March 2000, over four million red drum of three sizes were released into the Alafia and Little Manatee rivers. FWC scientists monitored them from the river nursery habitat through their growth, survival, and movements within and beyond Tampa Bay. The largest hatchery-reared red drum were recaptured about six times more often than the smallest fish. Those released in fall survived better than those released in spring and summer. Anglers returned nickel-size fin-clips so their catch could be genetically identified as wild or of hatchery origin. Project Tampa Bay has ended, and its results will guide future red drum releases in Florida.

Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative In 2006, FWC received State funding to develop the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative (www.FMFEI.org). The FWC and its public and private partners are obtaining suitable land and funding for marine facilities to restore fish and habitat. Fish will be cultured in indoor recirculating tanks with total environmental control. Such intensive-culture facilities need less land and seawater and have a minimal impact on the environment. FMFEI plans include facilities that will produce aquatic plants for habitat restoration and that will educate Floridians about marine conservation. June 2010

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

TARPON

O

ne of Florida’s most spectacular game fish, the tarpon is a feisty foe whose powerful leaps from the water and bone-jarring bursts of speed test the skill and fortitude of even the most experienced angler. A hardy giant that can survive in a variety of habitats and salinities, the tarpon can even gulp air for extended periods when not enough oxygen is present in the water to sustain it. Despite its popularity among sport fishermen, many aspects of this extremely long-lived fish’s life cycle and behavior remain a mystery.

along with their impressive size, is likely responsible for their nickname, “silver king.” The huge mouth of the tarpon has a projecting, upturned lower jaw that contains an elongated bony plate. The tarpon’s single short dorsal fin originates just behind the origin of the pelvic (or belly) fin. The last ray on the dorsal fin is very long and thin. Tarpon have a deeply forked tail fin and very large, platelike scales.

Silver King of the Coast

Description Tarpon share an ancient lineage with such seemingly disparate fish as bonefish, ladyfish, and eels. Indeed, tarpon-like fish have been discovered in fossils dating to the Cretaceous period, 100 million years ago. In prehistoric times, there were many more species of tarpon; today, there are just two: one that frequents the Atlantic and another found in the Indo-Pacific area. Tarpon are silvery colored with blue-gray backs. Underwater, they appear to shimmer like huge gray ghosts as they swim sedately by. This appearance,

Scientific name Size Range Habitat Status

One tarpon, captured in 1935 and kept on display at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, was 63 years old at the time of its death in 1998. Until recently, tarpon were thought to have a life span of only about 15 years. However, using more accurate techniques to count annually deposited rings in the earbones (otoliths) of fish, researchers found one individual that had lived 55 years. Many of the fish caught in the fishery are 15 to 30 years old. The world’s fishing record for a tarpon was set in 2003 when a tarpon weighing 286 pounds, 9 ounces was landed in Guinea-Bissau, Africa. The Florida record for tarpon caught with conventional tackle

Megalops atlanticus To 8 feet, approximately 280 pounds In the western Atlantic, from Virginia to central Brazil and throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico; in the eastern Atlantic, along the western coast of Africa Most abundant in estuaries and coastal waters but also occurs in freshwater lakes and rivers, offshore marine waters, and occasionally on coral reefs In Florida, recreational fishery only. Anglers must purchase a special tag to possess and kill a tarpon

Tarpon art after Diane Rome Peebles painting.


staging areas, scientists and fishermen have observed schools of tarpon swimming in a circular, rotating motion. This behavior, known as a “daisy chain,” may be a sort of prenuptial tarpon tango that prepares the fish for spawning. The actual exodus to the offshore spawning areas is probably triggered by lunar phases and tides.

was a 243-pound fish captured off Key West in 1975.

Range and Habitat Tarpon have been reported as far north as Nova Scotia and have also been found off the coast of Ireland. However, they prefer tropical and subtropical waters and are most common from Virginia to central Brazil and throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Because tarpon are sensitive to cold water, their range is generally limited to temperate climates. In Florida, they are found in water depths ranging from less than 3 feet to more than 80 feet. Although scientists believe the western Atlantic stock is genetically uniform, they have observed regional differences in behavior and size. Tarpon in Costa Rica, for example, are generally smaller than Florida tarpon, and Costa Rica tarpon spawn throughout the year rather than seasonally as Florida tarpon do. Tarpon thrive in a variety of habitats. Adults are believed to move offshore to marine waters to spawn, and the larvae gradually make their way back inshore to marshes and mangrove embayments in estuaries. Adults frequent a range of habitats, from offshore and nearshore coastal waters to stagnant pools off of riverine habitats. They can often be seen patrolling the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, tarpon are frequently caught in freshwater lakes and rivers miles from the coast. Although tarpon do migrate, little is known about the frequency or extent of their travels. Scientists do know that tarpon captured in Florida have later been recaptured as far west as Louisiana and as far north as South Carolina. Several projects are underway to learn more about the migratory patterns of tarpon. Pop-up archival transmitting tags and orbiting satellites are being used to help track migratory paths along Florida’s east and west coasts. Researchers are also examining more local movements by sonic-tagging tarpon captured during catch-and-release fishing events and tracking these fish after their release.

During aerial surveys conducted by researchers with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in 1989, 33 tarpon “daisy chains,” each containing from 25 to 200 individual fish, were observed along a 12-mile stretch of Florida’s west coast. During one spawning season, it is estimated that a mature female may produce from 4.5 to 20.7 million eggs. The larger and heavier the fish, the more eggs she is likely to shed. Scientists have never observed tarpon spawning or collected their fertilized eggs. Although no one knows exactly where tarpon spawn, tarpon larvae only a few days old have been collected as far as 125 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Some local anglers claim to have seen spawning in inshore waters near the passes, but this has yet to be proven. Spawning in Florida occurs mainly in May, June, and July. The eggs hatch into larvae called leptocephali. These bizarre-looking creatures have a transparent, ribbonlike body with slender, fanglike teeth. The leptocephali drift with the currents toward the shore, reaching estuarine areas within about 20 to 30 days. Storms may assist in pushing the larvae toward their inshore nurseries.

Life History

. . . . . . . . . . . .

In May and June, tarpon begin gathering together in areas near the coast in preparation for the journey to their offshore spawning grounds. In these coastal

Larva illustration after B. Eldred, 1972; Fla. Dep. Nat. Resour. Mar. Res. Lab. Leafl. Ser. Vol. 4 Pt. 1 No. 22.

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By the time the larvae reach these inshore areas, they are about an inch long. At this point, they begin an amazing transformation in which they lose their teeth and begin shrinking in length, winding up as miniature versions of the behemoths they will eventually become. Scientists do not yet know how long this metamorphosis takes, but they are getting closer to making a determination. The juvenile tarpon make their way into marshes and mangrove swamps, where they will spend the remainder of the first year of their lives. They are often found in stagnant pools. They grow rapidly and are about a foot long within one to two years. Females usually grow more quickly and are larger than males, and both reach sexual maturity at around 10 years of age. The sex of a tarpon cannot reliably be determined until their second or third year and then only by an internal examination. Tarpon are often found in schools with other tarpon and are opportunistic eaters that feed on a variety of fish and crabs. They can tolerate various salinities, but they are vulnerable to cold snaps and become stressed when water temperatures fall below 55° Fahrenheit. Although adults can often seek refuge from the cold in deep holes and channels, young fish are less able to escape cold waters.

pools and ditches it frequents and may have contributed to its survival since prehistoric times.

Fishery History and Management Tarpon have long been a target for Florida anglers. While they are not considered good to eat, tarpon are still consumed in some parts of the world, particularly in Central and South America. In “old Florida,” the muscle was cut into strips and dried to make jerky. Today, it is their size and fighting prowess that have made them one of the state’s most coveted sportfish. As long ago as the late 1800s, fishermen in canoes hunted tarpon with a variety of equipment, from harpoons to hand lines. Killing multiple tarpon for sport was extremely popular. Tarpon were also commonly harvested for fish mounts (taxidermy). In 1953, Florida officials established a fishing limit of two tarpon per day and prohibited their sale. In 1989, the Florida legislature established a “tagging” system in which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) determined the number of tags that can be sold; a tag is required if the angler wishes to possess and/or kill the fish. In 1996, the tag cost $50 for a year. By 1997, landings of tarpon had declined to less than 100 a year. The fishery is now largely a catch-and-release endeavor, for which a tag is not required.* Statistics on the number of tarpon caught by sport fishermen are not precise, but one survey indicates that 50,000 to 88,000 tarpon were hooked by anglers from 1992 to 1995. Scientists believe the tarpon population in Florida is stable, as it is predominantly a catch-and-release fishery. It is important, however, to note that a catch-and-release fishery does not imply 100% survival. Current research using ultrasonic telemetry is underway to estimate catchand-release mortality rates for tarpon caught recreationally. Researchers stress that a downward trend in the recruitment of juveniles into the fishery would be difficult to detect because this fish lives so long. A

Tarpon appear to resort to air-breathing more when water temperatures and hydrogen sulfide concentrations rise and dissolved oxygen levels plummet. One particularly remarkable facet of tarpon physiology is the fish’s ability to breathe both underwater and out of the water. When dissolved oxygen levels in the water are adequate, tarpon breathe like most fish, through their gills. When oxygen levels are depleted, however, they can also breathe by gulping air, which is then passed along to their highly specialized swim bladder. The swim bladder functions as an accessory lung and even resembles that organ, with its spongy, highly vascular tissue. The swim bladder can also be filled with air as needed to help the fish maintain its desired depth in the water. Scientists believe the tarpon’s ability to breathe air is a nifty adaptation that allows it to survive in the stagnant, oxygen-poor

. . . . . . . . . . . . . *Fishing regulations may change annually. Contact the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement for information about current regulations. You can also view the current saltwater fishing regulations at the Web site for the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management, located at http://MyFWC.com/marine

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decrease in adult populations would signal a decline in the recruitment of juveniles into the fishery, but it would be many years before a decrease in the adult populations of this long-lived fish could be seen. Tarpon tournaments are popular in Florida, with at least a dozen held in the state each year. One tournament in the Tampa Bay area has been conducted since before World War II. Perhaps the most famous tournament is the Gold Cup, a fly fishing competition held in the Florida Keys. Among its winners was baseball legend Ted Williams. The premier tarpon fishing “hot spots” in Florida are Boca Grande Pass, which is in southwest Florida, Homosassa, and the Florida Keys. In general, more tarpon are caught on the state’s west coast than on the east. Tarpon are most abundant in the months of May through July, but records show that they are caught in all months. Although tarpon appear to be sensitive to noise and boat traffic and may become skittish and reluctant to take bait when the waters are crowded with boaters, tarpon are unlike many other fish in that they can frequently be found in highly urbanized areas with poor water quality. They will take a variety of live and dead bait, as well as artificial lures and flies. Many fishing guides specialize in tarpon fishing, and it is thought to be one of the most economically valuable recreational fisheries in Florida.

estimate the ages of a variety of tarpon. FWRI researchers also are participating in a study to refine tarpon-aging techniques by using natural radio isotopes found within the otoliths. By measuring the rate at which these radio isotopes decay, scientists can estimate the age of the fish, much as paleontologists use carbon dating to age dinosaur fossils. Otolith samples have also been collected as part of a microchemistry study to help determine where an individual fish may have dwelled for its larval and juvenile life. Based on the unique chemical composition of certain bodies of water and the concentration of those same chemicals in the otolith, scientists may be able to determine the exact location a fish lived during its early years. To help determine the diversity of tarpon in Florida’s estuaries, researchers are collecting samples of the tips of the long dorsal threadfin to be used for DNA analysis. This technique is also being used to further evaluate the relation of tarpon in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean, to determine whether populations of tarpon from Florida are “mixing” with populations from other geographic areas. Scientists are also trying to pin down how long the larval phase lasts in tarpon, how larval fish reach the estuaries, what factors determine how many recruit into these inshore nurseries, and where they first spawned. Despite its fame and familiarity with anglers, many questions about the lifestyle and behavior of the state’s “silver kings” remain unanswered. Fishing license revenue and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program are important sources of funding for sport fish research. The Sport Fish Restoration Program is a “user pays/user benefits” system funded by a tax on sales of recreational fishing equipment and boat fuel. The program supplies three dollars for every one dollar provided by the State for projects that improve fishing and boating opportunities.

Research Efforts Scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) have been at the forefront of pioneering research into the life cycle, health, and behavior of tarpon. Among their accomplishments are studies that have shown that tarpon live as long as 55 years. In these studies on otoliths, the rings (deposited annually much like those on a tree) are counted. Scientists remove the otoliths from the fish, cut a crosssection through them with a special diamond-bladed saw, and examine the rings under a microscope to

June 2005

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

T

hese residents of Florida’s coastal waters are a popular target of the state’s sport anglers. Seatrout depend on seagrass meadows for food and shelter, so habitat protection is an essential element of any seatrout management program.

SPOTTED SEATROUT

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

juveniles have a dark “racing stripe” running the length of their sides. The distinctive pair of canine teeth that protrude from the seatrout’s upper jaw help the fish seize its prey and can also inflict a painful stab wound to a human hand. Stalkers in the Seagrass The oldest spotted seatrout reported from Florida was 10 Description years old. The largest seatrout on record in Florida The scientific name for spotted seatrout, Cynoscion weighed 17 pounds 7 ounces and was taken near nebulosus, is derived from both the seatrout’s Fort Pierce in 1995. canine-like fangs and its spotted body. A member of the class of bony fishes, seatrout are in the same family as drums and kingfish. Spotted seatrout are Range and Habitat Spotted seatrout are found throughout Florida’s also known as speckled seatrout or simply estuarine and nearshore waters in a wide variety “specks.” of habitats. They also occur along the Atlantic A spotted seatrout’s body can be dark gray to green on the back and tinged sky-blue to silvery coast from Delaware Bay, rarely as far north as Cape Cod, south to the Florida Keys, and throughout or white underneath. The first of the seatrout’s two dorsal fins is sail-shaped with stiff spines, and the Gulf of Mexico. Some of their preferred habitats are shallow, the second is long with soft rays. Black spots are brackish waters over seagrass meadows or other scattered across the back and on the dorsal and submerged vegetation and above oyster beds or tail fins. Until they are about two inches long,

Scientific name Cynoscion nebulosus Size To 3 feet and 15 pounds Range Cape Cod to southern Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico Habitat In and near seagrass beds or other areas with submerged vegetation Status In Florida, recreational management of spotted seatrout stocks is divided into two geographic regions, each with harvest restrictions appropriate for that ­region. Restrictions on the commercial harvest of seatrout are uniform ­throughout the state.


rocky outcroppings. They also reside in deep holes and channels, sand flats, and mangrove-fringed coves and shorelines. Seagrass beds are a critically important nursery for juvenile seatrout in Florida, who find a safe refuge from predators and a plentiful supply of food in the lush underwater meadows. Scientists are working to further define how seagrass functions to enhance seatrout survival and to identify the location of these habitats so that they can be protected—a necessary action for the effective conservation of seatrout populations. Spotted seatrout do not generally move long distances from the protective seagrass meadows that they inhabit, but occasionally, rapid drops in temperature force them off these shallow flats into warmer deep holes and channels. Seatrout can survive in waters as cold as 40°F. However, sudden declines to these low temperatures can kill them. Seatrout may also respond to salinity variations and may travel toward the saltier portion of an estuary, the mouth, when they spawn.

in the Everglades−Florida Bay area, they spawn almost year-round. Spawning generally begins at sunset and lasts about three or four hours. In Tampa Bay, spawning typically occurs toward the mouth of the bay, whereas seatrout in the Indian River Lagoon spawn in deeper channels adjacent to shallow seagrass beds. Seatrout larvae have been collected in channels, passes, and seagrass beds as well as in waters up to 50 feet deep in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

As part of their courtship behavior, male seatrout produce a variety of drumming sounds, which are used by scientists to detect spawning areas. Depending on her size, a female may produce from 300,000 to 1 million eggs in a single spawn; the bigger fish produce more eggs. On average, females spawn every 4–5 days or roughly 36 times during a 6-month season. Within a day of spawning, the eggs hatch into transparent larvae with undeveloped mouths and an attached yolk sac, which provides nourishment for about three days. After that, the eyes and mouth take shape, allowing the drifting larvae to feed on plankton for the next few weeks before settling into seagrass beds or other habitats. At this point, they are tiny, quarter-

Life History Spotted seatrout generally spawn in the summer months, although seatrout in the southernmost, warmer regions of the state spawn during a much longer period. For example, in northwest Florida, seatrout may spawn from May to September, but

Cynoscion nebulosus early juvenile (0.5 inch [13 mm] Standard Length) in lateral-stripe stage.

Cynoscion nebulosus juvenile (1.7 inches [43 mm] Standard Length) in transition from lateral-stripe stage to spotted stage.

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inch versions of the adult and have a long brownish stripe down each side, which helps camouflage them within vegetation. By the time these juveniles reach about two inches in length, they have traded this stripe for their familiar spots. Although juvenile seatrout are most closely associated with seagrasses, they are also found in backwater tidal marshes and low-salinity streams. In fact, scientists believe that these areas may serve as a substitute nursery when seagrasses are not available or have been negatively affected by environmental or human-related factors. For example, coastal Louisiana contains little seagrass, but its sweeping salt marshes harbor an abundance of seatrout.

of 14 inches by the age of one year. Males can grow to lengths of about 20 inches, whereas females can reach 25–30 inches or even longer. Seatrout in the Indian River Lagoon grow more rapidly than those in other areas and attain the largest sizes. Seatrout in northwest Florida are of moderate size and growth rate; those in southwest Florida are generally the smallest and slowestgrowing. Seatrout often congregate in groups and follow each other around as they search for food. Juveniles eat shrimp and small fish, and adults eat a variety of baitfish, mullet, shrimp, and crabs. Adults may also eat their smaller kin. In turn, many other fish, such as snook, tarpon, barracuda, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish, prey upon seatrout.

Management Efforts

Very large trout, usually mature females, are commonly referred to as “gator trout.�

Prior to 1952, spotted seatrout were netted mainly as an incidental bycatch of the striped mullet fishery. However, a developing market for seatrout spurred commercial landings of 3 to 4 million pounds per year from 1961 to 1970. Commercial landings declined to about 1.7 million pounds per

Males generally mature at the end of their first year, but the later-maturing females grow faster and reach larger sizes. Seatrout grow rapidly in a favorable environment, possibly reaching a length

Cynoscion nebulosus adult Seatrout art by Diane Rome Peebles

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year by 1988, probably as a result of fishing pressure and habitat losses associated with shoreline development. Regulations restricting the commercial fishery have reduced harvest to less than 100,000 pounds per year beginning in 1996. Recreational landings were estimated at 5.5 million fish in 1988. Size and bag limits have reduced the recreational harvest; in most years during 2000– 2008, between 1.3 and 2 million fish were landed per year. Over 85% of the spotted seatrout harvest occurs on the gulf coast of Florida. Because seatrout stocks are influenced almost exclusively by local fishing pressure, resource managers divided the state into two management regions beginning on July 1, 2000. Each region has its own regulations on the recreational harvest of seatrout, which are designed to ensure that enough mature females survive to sustain the population. Restrictions on the commercial harvest of seatrout are uniform throughout the state.

the fish from the water in order to disengage the hook. These hooks are not readily available commercially, but anglers can easily make their own by crimping the barb on a regular hook. Barbless hooks have not been found to significantly affect catch rates.

Management and Research Researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg continue their long-term monitoring of a spotted seatrout spawning site to better understand what factors affect spawning activity as well as to monitor the spawning population’s recovery after the 2005 red tide. In addition, they are conducting several projects to better understand where and when spotted seatrout gather to spawn and how these patterns may affect offspring survival. Fishing license revenue and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program are important sources of funding for sport fish research. The Sport Fish Restoration Program is a “user pays, user benefits” system funded by a tax on sales of recreational fishing equipment and boat fuel. The program supplies three dollars for every one dollar provided by the State for projects that improve fishing and boating opportunities. Information from these studies helps fisheries managers tailor habitat-protection measures and fishing regulations to the needs of seatrout in the various locales, ensuring that these lively stalkers in the seagrass will be long-term residents of Florida’s coastal waters.

Fishing Tips Spotted seatrout are popular with anglers because they are fun and relatively easy to catch. They can be caught in almost all of Florida’s inshore waters, do not require expensive fishing gear, and are readily accessible to fishermen who wade or fish from the shoreline. Proven techniques for catching seatrout include wading or poling your boat into seagrass flats at high tide or targeting channels next to flats. Casting with live shrimp is a definite enticement, but artificial flies and topwater plugs also attract trout. The use of barbless hooks with live bait can simplify catch-and-release fishing because in most cases, the angler does not even need to remove

June 2010

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

G

GROUPERS

roupers, members of one of the largest families of fishes found in Florida waters, run the gamut of sizes and shapes, from the diminutive graysby weighing several pounds to the mammoth goliath grouper that can tip the scales at 600 pounds or more. Grouper are an important commercial and recreational commodity in Florida. Broiled, fried, or spicy “blackened” grouper is a staple on the menus of seafood restaurants.

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

brassy, bronze spots on the side of the head and body and, sometimes, dark, rectangular blotches running the length of the back. Its fins are bordered in black. Black grouper may reach over 4 feet and 180 pounds. They have been seen forming spawning aggregations near the Florida Keys.

Chameleons of the Sea

Description “Grouper” is thought to be a corruption of “garoupa,” a perch-like fish found in Portugal. Groupers, along with sea basses and hamlets, are in the seabass family, which is called Serranidae. Worldwide, there are over 400 species of serranids; 61 of these are in North America, and more than 40 are found in Florida waters. In general, groupers are oblong, large, and stout. Their small scales usually have a saw-toothed edge, and their fins are coarse and spiny. The massive, underslung jaws of these carnivores harbor strong teeth, and many species have two canine teeth at the front of each jaw. Three spines on each bony plate covering the gills require care when handling. Groupers, like chameleons, vary in color according to species, habitat, water depth, age, reproductive season, or stress. Because the different species are so similar in appearance, identification can be confusing. As with most fish, the skin pigments fade when the fish is removed from the water. Ten grouper species that are found in Florida are described below.

Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) Although similar in appearance to the gag, the black grouper has a more vivid color pattern that includes

Gag Grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis) The gag’s brownish-gray body is covered with thin, dark, wormlike markings often grouped in blotches that give the fish a marbled look. Its pelvic, anal, and tail fins are dark; the anal and tail fins sometimes have a white outer margin. It may reach over 4 feet and 70 pounds, but most are much smaller. Juveniles inhabit estuarine seagrass beds before moving into nearshore and offshore waters. Adults form spawning aggregations on offshore ledge habitats of the West Florida Shelf. The gag is often mistaken for black grouper.

Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) The giant of the grouper family, the goliath (formerly called jewfish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins and has a gargantuan mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes. Its tail is rounded, and five irregular, dark sidebands are most visible on juveniles. They can reach whopping lengths of 8 feet or more, and the Florida record goes to a 680-pound goliath caught off Fernandina Beach in 1961. Once a popular target of fishermen, they are now protected from all harvest in Florida. They are opportunistic predators and feed mostly on slow-moving, bottom-associated species such as crabs. Goliath groupers, even juveniles, can make sounds and are known to make booming noises to warn off intruders. Goliaths are particularly noisy during the new moon.


Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata)

Scamp (Mycteroperca phenax)

Also known as “Kitty Mitchell,” graysby are small grouper that prefer coral reefs or small ledge habitats. They are light reddish brown to gray with dark orange spots over the body. Graysby have three to five dark spots along the base of the dorsal fin and the tail is rounded. Although they generally grow to only 12 inches, they often live into their twenties.

The light gray or brown body of the scamp is covered with reddish-brown spots that tend to be grouped into lines. The corners of the mouth are yellow. The top and bottom edges of the tail of large adults are elongated. Scamp in the gulf may grow to over 2 feet and weigh up to 14 pounds. Scamp also form spawning aggregations in offshore waters.

Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) This species has five irregular brown or red-brown side-bands on a light background. A wide brown stripe runs on each side of the head from the upper snout to the forward base of the dorsal fin. A broad, black, saddle-shaped patch rests atop the base of the tail. Nassau groupers may grow to 3 feet and weigh 55 pounds. Their zebra-like appearance has made them a photographers’ favorite. Nassau grouper form large spawning aggregations and so are highly vulnerable to overharvest. All harvest of this species is prohibited in Florida waters.

Some groupers, such as snowy, misty, and speckled hind, can be found at depths over 1,000 feet.

Snowy Grouper (Hyporthodus niveatus) Dark gray all over, the snowy grouper’s name derives from the obscure white spots arranged in a definite geometric pattern over the body. It also has a distinctive black “saddle” over the base of the tail. It may reach 3 feet and weigh 30 pounds. This species may be found as deep as 1,000 feet.

Red Grouper (Epinephelus morio) Red grouper are brownish red with scattered pale blotches, black dots around the eyes, and dark-tipped dorsal, anal, and tail fins. The membrane between the dorsal spines is not notched, and the tail fin is square. Red grouper are the most thoroughly studied of the Florida groupers. Using their mouths and fins, they remove sediment from the underlying hard bottom, creating pits that become home to other fish and invertebrates. Red grouper may grow to over 3 feet and average 10 pounds, though some reach 40 pounds. Red grouper can also produce sound.

Warsaw Grouper (Hyporthodus nigritus) A uniform brown, the adult Warsaw grouper has no spots or stripes (though juveniles may have white spots). It is distinguished by its impressive bulk, ten dorsal spines (all other groupers have 11), and a dorsal fin with a very long second spine. The Warsaw grouper may reach over 6 feet and weigh 580 pounds. It is typically found below 150 feet.

Yellowfin Grouper (Mycteroperca venenosa) The yellowfin earned its name venenosa from the toxic flesh of some large specimens that have eaten the toxic organism that causes ciguatera poisoning in humans. Also called the rockfish, the yellowfin is variously colored, commonly olive green with rows of rounded, irregular, dark splotches on its back. Its belly is often salmon pink, and its mouth is yellow inside and along the corners. The outer 1/3 of the pectoral fin is a brilliant yellow. Yellowfin taken from waters deeper than 100 feet are often bright red with darker red body blotches. They may grow to 3 feet and about 30 pounds.

dorsal spines

E. morio art by Diane Rome Peebles

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Range and Habitat

grouper in the Florida Keys, for instance, have been documented in all months. Several grouper species, including goliath, gag, black, and scamp, will form groups (aggregations) to spawn. The size of these aggregations varies by species. Nassau grouper can form large aggregations (hundreds to thousands) of many males and females. Other species, such as gag, have smaller aggregations (tens to hundreds). Several unique characteristics can be observed during spawning. Nassau grouper swim upward in the water column and release their eggs and sperm before descending back to the bottom. This behavior is known as a “spawning rush.” Goliath groupers display unique color patterns and have been seen “stacking” in the water column. They are known to make booming sounds during spawning. When groupers spawn, eggs and sperm are released into the water at the same time, and their union is by chance. A female red grouper may release 1.5 million to 5 million eggs in a spawn and can spawn several times during the spawning season. The largest females can probably produce the most eggs. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish one species of grouper larvae from another, so much information about their egg and larval development is a mystery. In general, the eggs hatch into larvae that drift with the currents for 30 to 40 days before settling as juveniles. Little is known about the range and behavior of most juvenile grouper, but red, gag, and goliath juveniles have been studied to some extent. Red grouper juveniles remain in the plankton for about a month, until they are ¾ to 1 inch long. Then they take up life on rocky bottoms and stay close to nearshore reefs, where they eventually become a mainstay of Florida’s recreational and commercial catch. Juvenile gag enter bays and estuaries in the spring and hide among seagrass or gather near rocky outcroppings until one to three years old, when they leave these sanctuaries for deeper waters. Goliath grouper prefer mangrove habitat and live their first few years in shallow estuaries. Most species of groupers become sexually mature between four and six years old. All groupers are meat-eaters. Many eat fish and crustaceans, and larger goliath have been known to eat juvenile sea turtles. It is believed that many groupers

Groupers are found in almost all temperate and tropical seas, usually over hard bottom such as coral reefs or shelf ledge habitats. Some species prefer shallow water, whereas others inhabit deep, dark regions far offshore. Some may lead solitary lives, hiding in reef crevices and caves. Young groupers are often found nearshore, and many species depend on healthy seagrass and mangrove habitats as nurseries. Red grouper is the most abundant grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. Those younger than six years reside over shallow nearshore reefs, moving into deeper waters farther offshore as they mature.

Life History Groupers can change sex, a relatively common occurrence among marine creatures. Some marine animals change from male to female, others (including some groupers) change from female to male, and some function as both at once. Although many grouper species are probably able to undergo a transformation from female to male, the incidence of individuals that do so is highly variable. Red groupers may change sex between 5 and 10 years old. Gag groupers may change at about 10 or 11 years old. Nassau groupers are able to change sex, although apparently few do. Scientists aren’t sure what natural advantage the sex change affords grouper or what specific factors trigger it. Some believe that in those species that live in groups, the death of the dominant male may prompt the largest female to change sex and become the dominant male in the hierarchy. However, some scientists believe that in grouper species that lead essentially solitary lives, the sex change is triggered when the fish gather to spawn. Grouper species generally have distinct spawning seasons. For example, red grouper off Florida’s west coast spawn mainly in April and May. Gag grouper and scamp spawn offshore, principally from January through March, and are found to co-occur at depths over 180 feet. Goliath grouper spawn from July to October. However, in warmer waters of the southern Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, some grouper may spawn throughout the year. “Ripe” female black

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do not actively search for prey but lie in ambush waiting for a suitable meal to swim near and then strike at it with lightning speed. Groupers maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with small “cleaner” fish and shrimp. A grouper will permit these tiny janitors to pluck dead tissue, parasites, and scales from its gills and body and even to enter its mouth to remove parasites. When a grouper wants to be “scrubbed,” it opens its mouth and assumes a nonthreatening position to attract its fastidious helpers.

change, anglers should consult the FWC Division of Law Enforcement for the most recent information. In 2008, 8.7 million pounds of grouper were commercially harvested and had an estimated value of $23.5 million. That year, grouper ranked second in total pounds of seafood landed in Florida and second in market value. The bulk of Florida’s grouper harvest occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, and red grouper is the species most frequently caught. Grouper yield a high quantity of edible meat compared to their body weight. An 8-pound grouper, for example, produces over 3 pounds of edible flesh. The meat has little oil and contains only 1% fat. Scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute have studied several species of groupers. Research has been completed on the age, growth, and reproduction of black grouper and on the life histories of goliath, yellowmouth, yellowedge, gag, and red groupers. In 2008, the FWC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service began a study monitoring reef fish along the West Florida Shelf, including inshore estuarine waters and reef habitats offshore. This survey will provide management agencies with timely information on abundance and distribution of many grouper species including gag, red grouper, and scamp. Fishing license revenue and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program are important sources of funding for sport fish research. The Sport Fish Restoration Program is a “user pays, user benefits” system funded by a tax on sales of recreational fishing equipment and boat fuel. The program supplies three dollars for every one dollar provided by the State for projects that improve fishing and boating opportunities.

One female goliath on display at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa has been seen sitting on her food when she is not hungry, presumably to prevent her tankmates from eating it.

Economic and Management Considerations Once considered a by-product of the red snapper fishery, grouper has soared in popularity among seafood consumers. Florida currently supplies about 80% of all the grouper caught in the U.S. Historically, recreational catches were much higher than commercial landings, but that has reversed in recent decades. Concern for the population status of several grouper species has resulted in regulations that limit harvest. All harvest of Nassau or goliath grouper is prohibited in Florida waters. Some commercial restrictions have quotas based on the water depth at which selected species are typically found. Recreational angling regulations cover factors such as bag and size limits, which vary depending on the species of grouper being targeted. Because fishing regulations are subject to

June 2010

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

BAITFISH

aitfish” is the common term given to a multitude of small, schooling fish whose main claim to fame is that they are an important food source for other fish. This large and diverse group of fishes is an integral part of the complex, interconnected marine food web. Baitfish are used in a variety of products such as fish meal, oil, pet food, and fertilizer and are, of course, used as bait. Regardless of the purpose of the catch, baitfish harvests support the state’s lucrative and popular fishing industries, both recreational and commercial.

Spanish sardines

Spanish sardines (Sardinella aurita) are a type of herring. They have a long, torpedo-shaped silvery body with a dark blue back, a rounded belly, a deeply forked tail fin, and a single dorsal fin. Spanish sardines may reach 9 inches in length.

Marine Middlemen

Description Fifty species of baitfish exist worldwide, at least two dozen in Florida. Baitfish include such diverse representatives as the 4-inch anchovy and the yardlong ladyfish, a relative of the mighty tarpon. Because many of these species are similar in appearance, distinguishing one from another can be an exasperating exercise. This situation is further complicated by the fact that most species have been endowed with a variety of descriptive, but often regionally specific, nicknames. Menhaden, for instance, are known as “pogies” in the Gulf of Maine but south of Cape Cod may have common names such as “alewives,” “fatbacks,” “razorbellies,” and “mossbunkers.”

Baitfish are the most abundant fishes in many of the state’s estuaries; the most abundant baitfish is the anchovy, of which there are many species. In this publication, the discussion focuses on the six most important commercial species of baitfish in Florida: Spanish sardines, Atlantic thread herring, Gulf menhaden, round scad, bigeye scad, and ballyhoo (along with its close relative, balao).

Diane Peebles

Thread herring

Diane Peebles

Atlantic thread herring (Opisthonema oglinum) are the most common Florida herring. They have a rotund body, a deeply curved belly, and a pointed head. Their common name refers to the long ray that trails from the back of their lone dorsal fin like a piece of thread. Silvery with a bluish or greenish back, thread herring have a dark spot above their gill covers and another dark spot behind, which is often followed by an entire row of dark spots. Six or seven streaks are present along their sides. They may grow to 8 inches and are also called “horse minnow,” “hairy back,” “grassy back,” and “greenback.”


Menhaden

Scad

Diane Peebles Diane Peebles

Round scad (Decapterus punctatus) derive their nickname “cigar minnows” from their long, cigarlike shape. Their narrow and stretched-out body is dark on top, shading to silver on the belly, and has black spots along the front half of the lateral line. These fish have a deeply forked tail fin and two separate, deeply notched dorsal fins. This species is one of the few baitfish species that have spines, which in round scad are particularly sharp, so these baitfish should be handled cautiously. Round scad grow to 9 inches and are also known as “cigarfish” and “hardtail.”

Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) grow to about 9 or 10 inches and are silvery with a dark blue-green back and yellow-green fins. A dark spot behind the gill cavity is about even with the eye. Some adults have additional spots on their sides. These fish have a pudgy, compressed body and have enlarged scales that extend from the mid-section to the dorsal fin. Their oily flesh makes them a popular choice for use in producing fish oil, meal, and fertilizer; they are also a popular bait for the Gulf Coast blue crab fishery. Menhaden are also called “fatback,” “bugfish,” “razorbelly,” “alewife,” “mossbunker,” “pogy,” and “shad.”

Bigeye Scad

Ballyhoo and balao Diane Peebles Diane Peebles

Ballyhoo (Hemiramphus brasilensis) and balao (H. balao) are members of a group of fishes known as halfbeaks, for their small, beaklike mouths. These fish are found throughout the state but are most abundant in south Florida, where they are often seen skipping along the surface of coastal or ocean waters. Ballyhoo and balao are landed together and sold as “ballyhoo.” Both species are equally acceptable for use as bait. Anglers consider halfbeaks prime bait for sailfish, dolphin, and wahoo. Ballyhoo are silvery with a greenish back, and the upper lobe of their tail fin is yellowish-orange. Balao are silvery with a bluish back, and the upper lobe of their tail fin is bluish-violet and has a red tip. For both species, the single dorsal fin is set far back on the fish’s back, near the deeply forked tail. The lower jaw elongates into a flat blade with an orange-red tip. Ballyhoo grow to 16 inches and are generally bigger than balao.

Bigeye scad (Selar crumenophthalmus) are also known as “goggle eyes” because of their large eyes, which are greater in diameter than the snout length. These fish have two widely separated fleshy tabs on the inside of the rear edge of the gill chamber, and scutes are present only on the rear part of the lateral line. Bigeye scad do not have detached dorsal or anal finlets and can grow to 2 feet, but they are usually less than 1 foot. Although these six species are directly targeted by commercial fishermen, many other types of baitfish are taken incidentally as bycatch in baitfish nets or are harvested when the primary target species is scarce. Other minor fisheries include yellowfin menhaden, anchovies, scaled sardine, Gulf killifish, sheepshead minnow, Atlantic bumper, pinfish, and silversides. Fingerling mullet are also a component of the baitfish fishery in some areas.

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Fortunately, because their existence is so fleeting and precarious, baitfish usually mature at about one year of age and spawn frequently. Except for menhaden, which spawn in or near the mouths of estuaries, all of the commercially important species travel to oceanic waters to spawn. Most spawning takes place in waters from 30 to 165 feet deep, but eggs and larvae have been collected from even deeper waters. Spawning seasons vary with the species. Gulf menhaden spawn in the fall and winter, but most baitfish spawn in the spring and summer. Each female can produce from 30,000 to 80,000 eggs and may spawn several times in a season. The eggs of menhaden usually hatch into larvae within a few days of being fertilized. Menhaden larvae grow rapidly and are carried by currents to estuaries, where they will remain until they become full-fledged juveniles. When they mature, usually by the end of their first year, they begin moving offshore to join large schools and spawn. Baitfish die at extremely high rates from both natural and human-related causes, and the majority caught by anglers are only one or two years old. As juveniles, baitfish join large schools and spend almost their entire lives in these tightly packed formations. The size of some of these schools can be awe-inspiring, and their ability to move as one unit, with the precision of synchronized swimmers, is remarkable. When frightened, baitfish in a school can dart off at a 90-degree angle in a flash, with each member turning as if on cue. Baitfish schools generally stay near the bottom during the day and rise to midwater or the surface at night to feed.

Range and Habitat Except for menhaden—which may move into the uppermost reaches of estuaries—the other of Florida’s top six baitfish species typically reside in nearshore waters from the lower sections of estuaries to 90 miles offshore. Although baitfish can be found in waters 150 feet deep or more, commercial netters usually focus their efforts closer to shore, in waters 20 to 60 feet deep. Spanish sardines and Atlantic thread herring are found throughout Florida waters, although their fisheries are located mostly in and off the Tampa Bay region. Although ballyhoo also occur statewide, the fishery for them is located primarily in south Florida from Miami to Key West. Round scad are caught mainly in northern Florida. Bigeye scad range from the northern Gulf of Mexico to southeastern Brazil and Bermuda, but are found worldwide in warm waters. As their name implies, Gulf menhaden are residents of the Gulf of Mexico and are found throughout west coast waters from the Panhandle to Florida Bay. Other menhaden species occur in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic Ocean, and occasionally they even crossbreed (hybridize) when they occur together.

Thread herring migrating from North Carolina to Florida were estimated to travel at the rate of six to seven miles per day.

Life Cycle and Behavior Spanish sardines and thread herring are planktoneaters, equipped with special structures called gill rakers that enable them to filter suspended matter from the water. Most baitfish will, however, also eat small crabs, shrimp, and fish. Baitfish migrate seasonally, moving north and south or into and away from shore. They do this in response to temperature changes or for spawning. They may also use habitats such as mangroves or seagrass beds for cover, and they appear to be attracted to structures such as piers. Baitfish are fast-growing fish that rarely live longer than four years. Some, such as ballyhoo, balao, and scaled sardines, live only about one to two years.

Baitfish schools appear tighter and more compact during daytime hours and more dispersed at night. Individuals seem to derive some protection from this safety-in-numbers tactic because schooling behavior often helps baitfish avoid being eaten by the multitudes of marine creatures larger than they are. A large school may confuse predators: viewed as a whole, the wellorganized unit can appear to be one very intimidating creature! Scientists speculate that schooling behavior may sustain a population by increasing the probability of successful reproduction and by enhancing each

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individual’s survivability. On the other hand, an abundance of individuals concentrated in one place obviously makes the school easy prey for some predators. Schooling behavior certainly benefits fishermen; from their boats or with assistance from observers in spotter planes flying overhead, they can readily spy the vast, surface-skimming formations. The importance of baitfish in sustaining the cycle of life in the world’s oceans cannot be underestimated. Baitfish are the middlemen of the marine realm, recycling plant or animal matter into energy for their own needs and, in turn, providing nourishment for an astounding number of larger animals. The fate of most of the state’s premier commercial and recreational fishes turns directly on the health of baitfish populations. Among the creatures that feed on various baitfish species are groupers, snappers, mackerels, sailfish, snook, spotted sea trout, tarpon, tuna, and wahoo.

about one million pounds a year through the 1960s but jumped to six million pounds per year in the 1980s because of the heightened interest in sportfishing. “Ballyhoo” landings also increased in the late 1980s as fish processors began using vacuum packaging and flash-freezing techniques. In the late 1990s, menhaden made up the largest percentage of baitfish landings, followed by thread herring, Spanish sardines, and round scad. Purse seine nets account for the majority of baitfish landings. Fishermen encircle baitfish schools with the nets and then close them, like the sides of a drawstring purse, to corral the quarry. Purse seines are so efficient, and the baitfish schools they target so large, that a single haul may net 200,000 or more baitfish. In recent years, a variety of restrictions have been enacted regulating net sizes and the numbers and types of baitfish that can be caught. A 1994 constitutional amendment banning the use of certain nets in state waters has also affected baitfish harvests. These restrictions are designed to ensure the continued long-term health of these small but essential and valuable members of the marine ecosystem.

A study of the stomach contents of Spanish mackerel revealed that 76% of all fish examined had eaten nothing but baitfish, especially sardines.

Research Efforts Scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute are investigating the life history of baitfish and assessing the effects of fisheries management efforts. Among these efforts are annual surveys of baitfish populations in Florida; biologists employ acoustic devices that use sound waves to estimate the size of baitfish schools and overall population biomass along the west coast. In addition, biologists use typical fishing gears to determine the geographic distribution of baitfish stocks. Results of these studies are provided annually to the FWC, which regulates Florida’s saltwater fisheries.

Economic Importance Baitfish are an important Florida commercial fishery. In the late 1980s, statewide landings of the top five baitfish species reached a whopping 37 million pounds in one year. Regulations designed to reduce fishing pressure on baitfish have now shaved that figure to about 10 million pounds a year. Although baitfish are an important component of various useful products, their economic value is most closely linked to the growing interest in recreational fishing—anglers demand high-quality live or frozen bait. Indeed, harvests of Spanish sardines hovered at

June 2000

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

BLUE CRAB

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lue crabs are common in all of Florida’s coastal waters. In 1860, William Stimpson, a taxonomist who admired the coloration of these crabs, named the group that includes blue crabs Callinectes, meaning “beautiful swimmer.” In 1896, the blue crab was first described by Mary Rathbun, who gave it the specific name sapidus, meaning savory. Blue crabs are classified as Phylum Arthropoda, Class Crustacea, Order Decapoda, Family Portunidae. All of these terms translated provide a concise description of blue crabs. They have a shell and ten jointed legs, and they spend much of their lives in estuaries. These beautiful swimming crabs are indeed a delicious meal.

The hard outer shell, the exoskeleton, is made of chitin (pronounced ky-tin) with calcium salts added for strength. Shells of adult crabs usually measure five to seven inches, but sometimes as much as nine inches, from the tip of one lateral spine to the other. The eyes are mounted on short stalks and can move independently. Between the eyes are two long antennae and two shorter antennules, which are used as sensory organs. The upper surface of the crab shell is bluish to dark green to brownish-green. The fingers of the males’ claws are blue, tipped with red; the females’ claws are red with darker red tips. The lower body is creamy white or white. Males may also be distinguished from females by examining the underside of the body. The male abdomen, or apron, is shaped like an upside-down Y. The female apron is triangular when she is immature and is almost semicircular when she is old enough to reproduce.

Beautiful, Savory Swimmer

Description The blue crab’s ten legs include one pair that has claws and stout spines for feeding and defense, three pairs of sharply pointed walking legs, and one pair that serves as flat swimming paddles at the rear. Blue crabs can walk rapidly over the sea floor on their walking legs, or they can swim sideways at good speed. The claw of the leading edge is folded close against the body, and the other claw, on the side away from the direction of movement, trails straight out behind. The shell, called the carapace, is two-and-a-half times as wide as it is long. Two lateral spines extend out on either side. The front edge of the shell is serrated, or “toothed,” with eight teeth on each side between the spines and the eyes. Between the eyestalks are two prominent bulges with two teeth between them.

Distribution and Habitat Although blue crabs are uncommon north of Cape Cod, they may range from Nova Scotia to northern Argentina. They are abundant in Chesapeake Bay and along the Florida coast. They have been successfully introduced into European waters and are found off France and Denmark and in the Mediterranean Sea. They are abundant in the Nile River delta of Egypt and in Israel. Blue crabs have recently been found in San Francisco Bay, where they may be a threat to the native crab population.

Scientific Name Size

Callinectes sapidus

Range

Nova Scotia to northern Argentina; off France and Denmark; Mediterranean Sea; Nile River delta; Israel; San Francisco Bay; all along the Florida Coast.

Habitat Harvest

Soft-bottomed estuaries, bays, deltas; females migrate offshore to spawn.

Adults usually measure five inches to seven inches, but sometimes up to nine inches, from the tip of one lateral spine to the other.

Five traps maximum without a license; traps may be worked only during daylight hours. Females with eggs prohibited. Crabs to be sold must be five inches minimum carapace width.


In Florida, male blue crabs are most prominent in upper bays and around river mouths. They seem to prefer soft bottoms where they can bury themselves, leaving only eyestalks and antennae sticking out. They are essentially shallow-water inhabitants, preferring water less than 35 meters (100 feet) deep, but they have been seen in water 90 meters (280 feet) deep. After maturing in the upper bay areas, female blue crabs move down the bay to spawn. Large populations of females are also found in certain offshore waters where blue crabs migrate. Blue crabs normally live in the salt waters of temperate and tropical seas, but they are also found in water ranging from fresh to very salty. Depending on their stage of development, blue crabs may require specific salinity and temperature ranges, food supply, water quality, and habitat.

Life History Reproduction Blue crabs are thought to live as long as four years, although their exact lifespan is unknown. In Florida waters, blue crabs spawn almost all year, except in the cooler months of December through February. Males become sexually mature in 12 to 16 months and at a smaller size (about four inches) than females do, but they continue to grow after reaching maturity. Females reach sexual maturity in 12 to 14 months, at a size of 5 to 7 inches. When they molt at maturity, growth stops; therefore, it is known as the “terminal molt.” Females mate only once, but males may mate several times. Mating occurs in brackish water after the female’s terminal molt. The sperm is stored in the female’s body for up to a year and so will be available for repeated spawnings, even though mating for the female is a one-time event. She may spawn one to nine months after mating, depending on water temperatures. Up to two million tiny eggs are deposited on feathery structures called swimmerets under the semicircular “apron” and form a large, orange, spongy mass. Though blue crabs typically inhabit brackish waters, the eggs need higher salinities to hatch, so the female moves offshore. The orange egg mass becomes dark brown as the developing young use up the yokes. After two weeks, the eggs hatch, and tiny, freeswimming, larval-stage zoeae are released into the sea.

One tagging study documented female blue crabs that moved 500 miles in 100 days. Only female blue crabs are migratory. Tagging studies suggest that on the gulf coast of Florida, male blue crabs tend to remain in the estuaries, moving at random and without direction. Females, however, migrate, moving offshore and alongshore in saltier waters. They travel principally in fall and winter, generally heading in a northerly direction. On the east coast of Florida, males also tend to remain in estuaries, but females make offshore migrations only to spawn.

Life Stages The zoea is a strange-looking creature with large, dark eyes;

antennule eyestalk manus

antenna carpus

cheliped female abdomen (ventral view)

merus

male abdomen (ventral view)

lateral spine walking legs posterior margin

carapace

abdomen

backfin paddle

Blue crab art by James Seagle Abdomen art after Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Species Identification Sheets

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a round body; a long, curved spine on its back; a shrimplike tail; and two pairs of leg-like appendages. It swims backward in jerks by snapping its tail (abdomen) under its body. The zoea is very fragile and cannot tolerate sudden changes in temperature or salinity. It is estimated that one in a million eggs spawned will survive to maturity. The zoea passes through seven increasingly complex molts over 31 to 49 days and finally emerges as a later-stage larva called a megalopa. The megalopa has a flattened body with tail section that is shorter than the zoea’s but still extends straight from the body. It has true legs and may either swim or crawl about. The megalopa settles to the bottom and takes advantage of incoming tidal currents to sweep it shoreward to the estuarine nursery grounds, where it metamorphoses into the first crab stage. When the megalopa molts after 6 to 20 days, depending on salinity and temperature, it looks like a true crab for the first time and measures about one-tenth of an inch wide. The crabs reach their adult stages in brackish water 12 to 18 months after they hatch. While growing from zoea to adult, the female crab molts 18 to 20 times. The male molts 25 or more times.

increases are usually associated with less salty water because the water, and certain elements in it, can be absorbed better. Blue crabs and other crustaceans have the remarkable ability to regenerate lost appendages. They may deliberately shed claws and legs when danger threatens, but at the next molt, a new appendage will be produced to replace the lost one. Their regenerative powers are not well understood, and scientists are very interested in the process.

Molting

Numerous parasites cause diseases in blue crabs. Certain protozoa (single-celled animals) can infect the muscle tissue of blue crabs, turning it white. Fishermen refer to affected crabs as “sick crabs.” The disease is passed on when crabs eat crabs that are “sick.” The infected meat, when cooked, has a cotton-like texture. Along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, the protozoan amoeba Paramoeba perniciosa is responsible for many crab deaths. It has not yet been found in the Gulf of Mexico. The gills of blue crabs are often infested with parasites such as nemertean worms and goose-necked barnacles. In less salty waters, the brown leech may be found clinging to the abdomen and appendages. It is probably harmful to the crab, but it has not been identified as a cause of mass mortalities. Although external parasites are shed with the exoskeleton at each molt, the internal ones remain. The sacculinid barnacle is a serious parasite in Florida crabs. This strange barnacle lives inside the crab, but its large sac extends outside the body and is sometimes mistaken for an egg mass. (The barnacle’s sac is smooth and usually gray, whereas an egg mass looks spongy and is orange to dark brown.) This parasite prevents the crab from molting and sometimes modifies sexual characteristics. Larval worms, flukes, and bacterial and fungal infections, some of which may be harmful to humans, are common in blue crabs. Therefore, proper handling and cooking of the meat is very important. Other crab diseases may be caused by heavy metals. Industrial and chemical pollution, pesticides,

Feeding Zoeae are filter feeders, consuming tiny plants and animals afloat in the sea. The megalopae have small, sturdy claws and feed more selectively, capturing other small creatures. Blue crabs feed on a great variety of plant and animal material, both living and dead. Though they are often considered to be scavengers, they prefer live or fresh food. They can capture small fish with lightning-quick grabs of their strong, slender claws, or they may harvest young oysters and clams. Blue crabs will also eat each other, preying on injured or soft-shelled crabs they encounter.

Parasites and Diseases

Because its skeleton is on the outside and encloses the crab, it can grow only by shedding its shell in the process known as molting. When a new shell begins to form under the old, the last two segments of the swimming paddles change color. In mature crabs, a white line indicates that the animal will molt in one or two weeks, a pink line denotes molting in three to six days, and a red line suggests that molting will be completed in one to three days. Molting crabs hide in vegetation or crevices because they are defenseless while they molt and for a time thereafter. Because even the stomach lining will be lost, crabs stop feeding when molting time nears. Some of the carbohydrates, proteins, and calcium of the old shell are dissolved and stored in the body for use in the new shell. Muscle attachments loosen and reattach to the new shell. A four- or five-inch crab may take two or three hours to molt. The old shell splits at the back “seam,” the carapace is lifted, and the crab backs out. The new shell, soft and elastic, will absorb great amounts of water and stretch before it hardens, about 72 hours after the molting ends. As the crab continues to grow, a new soft shell forms, and the cycle is repeated. The smallest crabs molt every three to five days, increasing in size approximately 33% each time. Crabs measuring about an inch wide molt every 10 to 15 days. A four-inch-wide crab molts every 20 to 25 days, depending on water temperature and available food, and increases in size 25% to 35% before the shell hardens. Greater size

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and alteration of drainage patterns may also contaminate crabs and reduce their chances of survival.

obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Traps may be worked only during daylight hours, and there are regulations on trap size and materials used. Egg-bearing females may not be taken. Crabs to be sold must measure at least five inches from point to point across the carapace. A special activity license is required to possess blue crabs less than five inches wide for the soft-shell crab or bait trade. The recreational harvest limit is 10 gallons of whole crabs per day.*

Farming Potential Farming blue crabs does not seem to be commercially feasible. Though most of their lives are spent in brackish and low-salinity waters, eggs successfully hatch only in saltier waters. Crabs in larval stages are microscopic, fragile, and susceptible to sudden changes in temperature and salinity. Crabs take a year or more to reach sexual maturity, and if they are crowded, they eat each other. Any crabs produced via farming could not be competitively priced because of the costs involved. Soft-shell crab production, however, might be a viable industry. When blue crabs are harvested, they are examined for signs of molting. Potential “peelers” are separated and kept in floating pens until they molt. They are held for an hour or two after emerging so the soft shell can develop a certain degree of toughness. They may be shipped live in damp moss or similar material, or they may be frozen.

Economic Importance Collectively, recreational fishermen harvest many pounds of blue crabs each year, but the amount is not known. Commercial landings reported in Florida fluctuated widely during 1986–2002. Landings reached more than 18 million pounds in 1987 and 1996 and dropped to less than 8 million pounds in 2001 and 2002. Gulf coast landings dropped from about 11 million pounds in 1999 to about 4.5 million pounds in 2001 and went up to 7.1 million pounds in 2003. The Atlantic coast landings have decreased from about 4.5 million pounds in 1998 to 2 million pounds in 2003. The soft-shell crab production in Florida is irregular, ranging from about 72,000 pounds to over 250,000 pounds between 1990 and 2003.

Fishing Gear and Methods In Florida, blue crabs are popular in both recreational and commercial fisheries. Many people use dip nets to catch crabs. They place bait on a fishing line, and when the crab grabs the bait, the crab is gently pulled to the surface and caught in the dip net. An “open” trap is also common. A weighted trap lies flat with bait in the center. When crabs go to the bait, lines bring up the trap walls, and the trap is hauled to the surface. The regular baited traps used by commercial fishermen are also popular with recreational fishermen. The commercial blue crab fishery relies mainly on baited traps. Most of these traps are made of plastic-coated, galvanized wire and have funnel-shaped entries. Once the crab is inside, it cannot easily escape. The traps are pulled at regular intervals, and crabs are removed through a hinged door. Marked buoys identify the traps and their owners. Trotlines are used in some areas. Long, stout lines with pieces of bait are laid on the bottom and marked with buoys. To harvest the crabs, the line is pulled into a boat over a roller attachment. The crabs cling to the bait as they are brought up and caught in a dip net.

Similar Species in Florida Waters Besides the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, Florida has five other Callinectes species. These crabs are similar in form but have variations in body size, color, and length of the lateral spines; they are best identified by having an extra pair of teeth between the eyes. Although the configuration of the teeth of the six species differs, the teeth of all six are generally unequal in size and lack sharp points. Some swimming crabs of the genus Portunus may also be mistaken for blue crabs, but they are usually smaller and are orange, red, or purple. A speckled crab similar in shape to the blue crab is easily distinguished by its color— light brown with small round spots and yellow-tipped legs.

. . . . . . . . . . . . *Fishing regulations may change annually. Contact the FWC Division of Law Enforcement for information about current regulations. You can also view the current saltwater fishing regulations at the Web site for the FWC, Division of Marine Fisheries Management, located at http://MyFWC.com/marine.

Harvesting Regulations Florida regulations permit using no more than five traps to catch blue crabs unless a Saltwater Products License is

November 2005

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

RED TIDE

T

he Florida red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon that continues to challenge researchers seeking clues to its origin and cause. It has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and probably occurred much earlier. Fish kills around Tampa Bay were mentioned in the logs of Spanish explorers. The source of these red tides—a group of tiny, plant-like organisms called dinoflagellates—was not discovered until the massive red tide of 1946–47 in southwest Florida.

foundation for the marine food web. Dinoflagellates can produce some of the most powerful poisons in nature. When certain dinoflagellates are present in higher-thannormal concentrations, a “bloom” is created that releases poison, or toxin, into the water. This toxin can cause various effects; for example, it may paralyze fish, causing them to stop breathing. Sometimes, a bloom discolors the surrounding water. The color may be red, but a bloom may also be yellow, orange, brown, or reddish-brown.That’s why scientists prefer the term Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).

Florida’s Unwelcome Visitor

Description Red tides with various characteristics have been documented worldwide for thousands of years in cold temperate to tropical waters. Dinoflagellates, the organisms that cause most red tides, are microscopic, single-celled organisms characterized by two whiplike structures, each called a flagellum. One flagellum spins the cell around and the other propels it through the water at about three feet per hour. Dinoflagellates and other types of microscopic algae, collectively called “phytoplankton,” are commonly referred to as the “grass of the sea” because they are so plentiful and have plant-like nutritional characteristics. They use the sun’s energy to produce their own food and, in turn, are eaten by many other kinds of marine life. In this way, they serve as a

Scientific name Size Range Effects

Scientists prefer to call red tides Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs. In Florida, the most common cause of red tides is a toxic marine dinoflagellate named Karenia brevis (frequently abbreviated to K. brevis), which is a yellow-green dinoflagellate measuring only about 1⁄1000 of an inch long. A stingray-shaped single cell, it contains one flagellum encircling a groove around the middle of the cell and a second flagellum trailing behind like a ship’s rudder. The cell’s forward motion resembles a gently falling leaf, turning over and over in the water as it swims, but K.

Karenia brevis (pronounced Kah-REN-ee-uh BREV-is, often abbreviated to K. brevis). Formerly known as Gymnodinium breve and Ptychodiscus brevis. About 1⁄1000 of an inch long Documented throughout the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coastline to North Carolina Red tides can kill fish and other marine animals and contaminate shellfish such as clams and oysters. People can become ill by eating shellfish tainted with red tide toxins; additionally, toxic particles in sea spray at the shore can cause respiratory discomfort.


brevis is a weak swimmer and progresses mostly by drifting along with currents. Like other dinoflagellates, K. brevis reproduces by cell division, with a single cell splitting into two about every 48 to 120 hours. In addition to a dividing cycle, K. brevis has a sexual cycle that may include “resting” stages whereby it could remain inactive during Karenia brevis, magnified non-bloom periods. Karenia brevis is probably 1,160 times. always present in Florida marine waters at very low levels of less than or equal to 1,000 cells per liter (approximately equal to one quart) of water. Periodically, due to a combination of environmental or biological conditions, K. brevis can accumulate in concentrations of up to millions of cells per liter. Water samples collected during a red tide that plagued southwest Florida in 1995 and 1996 contained over 20 million cells per liter. Counts exceeding 100 million cells per liter have been recorded. Scientific research shows that the growth of K. brevis is influenced by a variety of factors, including sunlight, temperature, salinity, and the amount and types of nutrients available in the water. Winds and currents also play a role in determining when and where blooms will occur. Studies indicate that K. brevis probably blooms annually in offshore waters as part

of its normal growth cycle. It becomes a problem for people only when winds and currents drive the blooms close to shore, where they can be concentrated. Because Florida red tides caused by K. brevis start offshore, one theory is that pulses of warm water from the Caribbean moving into the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico may “awaken” K. brevis and spark a red tide bloom. Another theory is that another phytoplankton organism precedes K. brevis and conditions the water for red tide growth. People frequently ask whether red tides are a result of increasing pollution of coastal waters. Although excess nutrients associated with human activities have been linked to red tides caused by other species in enclosed areas in Japan, Europe, and elsewhere, there is no evidence to suggest a similar connection between pollution and Florida’s offshore K. brevis blooms. K. brevis red tides begin offshore and have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico for hundreds of years, long before manmade pollution became prevalent. However, pollution can cause other types of algal blooms in Florida’s coastal waters and estuaries, and researchers are investigating the possibility that pollution or nutrient enrichment may influence K. brevis blooms after the blooms are transported and concentrated inshore.

Distribution Karenia brevis red tides have been observed at least once along almost the entire coastline of Florida. They have also occurred at least once in the coastal waters of the other Gulf states (most frequently in Texas) and in Mexico. On the Atlantic coast, K. brevis has been transported as far north as the Carolinas. Blooms occur most frequently from August through February but have been documented in every month of the year. Offshore surveys have shown that Florida red tides generally begin 10 to 40 miles from the coast in the Gulf of Mexico on the mid-continental shelf. Winds and currents may push the patches of red tide onshore or along the shore to other areas. If conditions are right, a bloom may remain in an area for several weeks or may move up and down along the coast for months at a time. One red tide that first appeared near Naples in November 1946 spread as far north as Sanibel Island and Englewood by January 1947. Red tide surfaced again in the spring of 1947 in outer Florida Bay and a few months later as far north as Tarpon Springs. It was during this event, charac-

The life cycle of Karenia brevis. The dominant cell can reproduce in two ways: by dividing into two cells (asexual division) and by merging with another cell (sexual cycle). Stages 1 through 9 are known, but stages 10 through 12 are still in question.

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terized as one of the worst red tide episodes on record, that scientists first identified K. brevis as the toxic organism responsible for Florida red tides.

event of 149 manatee deaths was finally linked to a red tide bloom that had extended into winter. As a result, both the bloom and the manatees were present at the same time in one of the manatee wintering areas. Red tide toxin was found in the organs and stomach contents of manatee carcasses. Given the results of detailed examination of the carcasses, scientists hypothesized that these animals died quickly after being exposed to large quantities of toxin. Additional manatees died in the winter of 1982 and in recent years during red tide events; these animals also showed signs of exposure to red tide toxin.

How Red Tides Affect Marine Life Karenia brevis toxins, called “brevetoxins,” primarily affect the nervous system of fishes, causing death by paralyzing the nerves and effectively suffocating the fish. Karenia brevis can become lethal to fish at concentrations greater than 100,000 cells per liter. This organism has been implicated in the mortality of marine mammals, birds, and invertebrates during red tides such as the one that occurred in 1996. Although K. brevis red tides can kill thousands or even millions of fish, there is no evidence that they cause permanent damage to marine fish and invertebrate populations. The impact of a red tide often appears to be short-lived, and fishermen have reported better catches of some species, such as crabs, in the months following an outbreak. This may occur because the red tide organism has killed specific predators, allowing certain prey species to survive in greater numbers, or because red tides introduce more food into the system. Thus, although large numbers of fish may be killed by a bloom, other species may benefit. Indeed, the ecosystem currently in the Gulf of Mexico is composed of populations that are the product of an environment that has included red tides, storms, and other disturbances for probably thousands of years.

How Red Tides Affect People The greatest threat to humans posed by K. brevis red tides is through consumption of bivalve shellfish that have been contaminated with the red tide toxin. At present, no humans have died from eating tainted clams, mussels, oysters, or coquinas, but some people have become seriously ill with an ailment called Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP). Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, tingling of fingers and toes, and sometimes a reversal of sensations—hot seems cold and cold seems hot. Illness occurs within a few minutes to several hours after consumption of the shellfish. NSP is often confused with a more dangerous and commonly known shellfish poisoning called Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). PSP is caused by other dinoflagellates that produce an entirely different set of symptoms in humans. As part of a routine shellfish management plan, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services closes harvesting areas when shellfish beds are threatened by a bloom. The harvesting ban is lifted only after meat from shellfish passes a laboratory test for the toxin. Generally, most bivalves can purge the toxin from their systems within two to six weeks after the red tide dissipates. The shellfish harvesting bans do not apply to shrimp, crabs, or lobsters because the edible parts of these and other crustacean shellfish do not become toxic when the animals are exposed to Florida red tides. Fish caught during K. brevis red tides are safe to eat if they are filleted. However, at any time, experts advise against eating a fish that appears sick or lethargic. People can also be affected by airborne toxins. Wave action breaks apart the red tide cells, and the toxins, associated with particles in the sea spray, cause sneezing, coughing, and general respiratory irritation.

The red tide bloom of 1946–47 is estimated to have killed 500 million fish. Slow-moving fish, unable to flee from the path of red tides, are usually the first to die, along with territorial or bottom-dwelling fish. Nearly all fish are susceptible, especially if the bloom is dense or prolonged. Invertebrates are usually not killed by red tide toxins, although a greater variety of animals, including snails and crabs, may be killed if the bloom is severe enough. Bivalve shellfish such as clams and oysters, which feed by filtering plant matter from the water, may ingest K. brevis and, consequently, become toxic to consumers. Even when K. brevis concentrations are only slightly above normal, these filter-feeders may become toxic if they are exposed to low levels of toxin long enough. In southwest Florida in 1996, an unprecedented

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In addition, red tide can cause aesthetic problems in coastal areas; it often dumps smelly, dead fish—sometimes hundreds or thousands of them—on area beaches. Most local communities dispose of the rotting fish quickly, but these cleanups can be costly.

South Florida College of Marine Science, and Mote Marine Laboratory are collaborating on a federally funded project to develop and deploy new technology to monitor Florida’s coastal waters for red tide. Additionally, FWC and Mote are collaborating on a state-funded program to identify specific nutrient sources that support red tides and to assess potential links between coastal nutrient pollution and the nearshore stages of red tides. The use of satellites in detecting ocean currents and blooms also holds promise for tracking the movement of red tide and possibly predicting its occurrence. The FWC and a number of other agencies and research entities are acquiring scientific knowledge about the Florida red tide organism in order to manage its effects on humans and natural resources. Because of FWC’s long-term experience with this organism and others, FWC scientists have made valuable contributions to investigations of harmful algal blooms.

K. brevis is one of only a relatively few red tide organisms known or suspected to produce noxious, airborne toxic particles that can irritate human respiratory systems.

Although it has long been debated whether research should strive to find ways of eliminating or otherwise controlling red tide, many scientists believe that there is no practical way to totally eradicate Florida red tides. Getting rid of red tide would be extremely difficult and costly because red tide blooms often occur over hundreds to thousands of square miles of water, are distributed throughout the water column, can be moved great distances along the coast, and fluctuate daily with the tides. The use of chemical or biological control agents to disperse the red tide blooms or neutralize the toxins may adversely affect other forms of marine life. Yet, the possibility of controlling the bloom at a local level, by mitigating either its effects or its distribution, has recently gained popularity. Researchers are pursuing the possibility of applying techniques that have been used for limiting localized blooms of other species elsewhere. Overall, scientists and managers agree that we must be careful about introducing control agents into our coastal system. Indeed, there is speculation that the red tide phenomenon may serve an important, although currently unverified, role in making the marine ecosystem off Florida’s coast more productive. If red tides and their paths could be predicted, alerted communities might have time to mobilize cleanup crews and establish warning systems before the bloom arrives. With prediction as one of their goals, scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the University of

Image from Tester and Steidinger, 1997, Limnology and Oceanography 42:1042.

Should Humans Seek to Eliminate Red Tides?

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

GULF OF MEXICO

This satellite image, showing a bloom (light gray) in the Gulf of Mexico off the southwest coast of Florida, is an example of how satellites are used to detect and track red tides. The original image uses colors to show different concentrations of red tide. These blue arrows point to areas of greatest concentration.

June 2005

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

S

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

SEA TURTLES

ea turtles, who are among the oldest creatures on earth, have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years; however, they face an uncertain future. The many threats to sea turtles include encroachment of coastal development on their nesting beaches, encounters with pollutants and marine debris, accidental drownings in fishing gear, and international trade in turtle meat and products. Information about these ancient nomads of the deep has, until recently, focused on nesting females and hatchlings because they are the easiest to find and study. The advent of new research techniques, such as satellite tracking technology, has allowed scientists to peer into other phases of their lives. Florida, a leader in sea turtle research and conservation, is home to the nation’s only refuge designated specifically for sea turtles. On Florida’s east coast, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, named after the pioneering researcher whose work first called attention to the plight of the sea turtles, serves as a nursery for approximately onequarter of all loggerhead turtle nests in the Western Hemisphere.

relatives, they cannot retract their heads very far into their shells. In most sea turtles, the top shell, or carapace, is composed of many bones covered with horny scales or “scutes.” Turtles are toothless but have powerful jaws to crush, bite, and tear their food. The smallest of the sea turtles are the ridleys, weighing 85 to 100 pounds as adults. Leatherbacks are behemoths that can grow to 2,000 pounds. Most sea turtles grow slowly and have life-spans of many decades. Although sea turtles can remain submerged for hours at a time while resting or sleeping, they typically surface several times each hour to breathe. In summer, an ancient reproductive ritual begins. The female, who usually nests every two to three years, leaves the sea and crawls ashore to dig a nest in the sand. She uses her rear flippers to dig the nest hole, where she deposits about 100 eggs the size of ping-pong balls. When egg-laying is complete, the turtle covers the eggs, camouflages the nest site, and returns to the ocean. Nesting turtles may return to the beach several times in a nesting season to repeat the process.

Nomads of the Deep

Description Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles remarkably suited to life in the sea. Their hydrodynamic shape, large size, and powerful front flippers allow them to dive to great depths and swim long distances. After their first frantic crawl from the nest to the ocean, male sea turtles never return to the shore, and females come back only long enough to lay eggs. There are seven species of sea turtle: green turtle, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, and flatback. All but the olive ridley and flatback are found in Florida. Sea turtles have long, narrow, wing-like flippers in place of forelimbs and have shorter, webbed flippers as hind limbs. Unlike their terrestrial

Female sea turtles often appear to be weeping as they nest; the main purpose of these tears is to remove salt from the turtle’s body. As is true for some other reptiles, the temperature of the sea turtle nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. Warmer temperatures produce more females, whereas cooler temperatures result in more males. Consequently, conservationists prefer to leave turtle eggs in their original location whenever possible so that sex ratios are determined naturally. After incubating for about two months, the eggs begin to hatch. A few days later, 2-inch hatchlings emerge as a group. This mass exodus usually occurs


lower shell, that formed the basis of the popular green turtle soup). Merchants learned that the turtles could be kept alive by turning them on their backs in a shaded area. This discovery made it possible to ship fresh turtles to overseas markets. By 1878, 15,000 green turtles each year were shipped from Florida and the Caribbean to England. In Key West, formerly a major processing center for the trade, the turtles were kept in water-filled pens known as “kraals,” or corrals. These corrals now serve a benign role as a tourist attraction. A more streamlined-looking turtle than the bulky loggerhead, the green turtle weighs an average of 350 pounds and has a small head for its body size. Its oval-shaped upper shell averages 3.3 feet in length and is olive-brown with darker streaks running through it; its lower shell, called the plastron, is yellow.

The contiguous beaches of Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach counties are the most important loggerhead nursery areas in the Western Hemisphere, attracting more than 15,000 female loggerheads each May through August. at night. Under natural conditions, the hatchlings use the bright, open view of the night sky over the water to find their way to the sea. However, artificial lights on beachfront buildings and roadways distract hatchlings, causing them to travel away from the ocean and toward the brighter lights located inland. Because of this danger, many beachfront communities in Florida have adopted lighting ordinances requiring lights to be shut off or shielded during the nesting and hatching season.

A Sea Turtle Sampler: Florida’s Five Species of Sea Turtles

Many of Florida’s green turtles have numerous warts on their bodies called fibropapillomas. Researchers believe these growths are caused by a virus but have not yet isolated a specific pathogen. The number of green turtles with these tumors appears to be increasing.

Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) The most common sea turtle in Florida, the loggerhead is named for its massive, block-like head. It is among the larger of the sea turtles; an adult weighs an average of 275 pounds. Its carapace, which is about three feet long, is reddish-brown on top and creamy yellow underneath; it is very broad near the front of the turtle and tapers toward the rear. Each of its flippers has two claws. As is true for all sea turtles, the adult male has a long tail, whereas the female’s tail is short; however, a juvenile’s sex cannot be determined externally. The powerful jaws of the loggerhead allow it to easily crush the clams, crabs, and other armored animals it eats. A slow swimmer compared to other sea turtles, the loggerhead occasionally falls prey to sharks, and it is not uncommon to see an individual that is missing flippers or chunks of its shell. However, the loggerhead compensates for its lack of speed with stamina; for example, a loggerhead that had been tagged at Melbourne Beach was captured off the coast of Cuba 11 days later.

Green turtles are found during the day in shallow flats and seagrass meadows. Every evening, they return to their usual sleeping quarters—scattered rock ledges, oyster bars, and coral reefs. Adult green turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they are largely vegetarians, consuming principally seagrasses and algae. Each year, from June through late September, approximately 100 to 1,000 green turtles nest on Florida’s beaches.

Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) The leatherback is a fascinating and unique animal, even among sea turtles. It is larger, dives deeper, travels farther, and tolerates colder waters than any other sea turtle. Most leatherbacks average 6 feet in length and weigh from 500 to 1,500 pounds, but the largest leatherback on record was nearly 10 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds. The leatherback looks distinctively different from other sea turtles. Instead of a shell covered with scutes, the leatherback is covered with a firm, leathery skin and has seven ridges running lengthwise down its back. The turtle is black with white, pink, and cobalt-blue

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Green turtles, named for their green body fat, were valued by European settlers in the New World for their meat, hide, eggs, and “calipee” (the fat, attached to the

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highlights and has no claws on its flippers. It eats softbodied animals such as jellyfish, and its throat cavity and scissor-like jaws are lined with stiff spines that aid in swallowing this soft, slippery prey. A young leatherback in captivity, with a plentiful food supply, can consume twice its weight in jellyfish daily.

Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi) The Kemp’s ridley is the rarest, most endangered sea turtle in the world. It has only one major nesting beach, an area called Rancho Nuevo on the Gulf coast of Mexico. The location of this nesting beach was a mystery to scientists until the discovery of a 1947 film showing 40,000 Kemp’s ridleys crawling ashore in broad daylight to lay eggs. Sadly, an “arribada” (from the Spanish word for arrival) of such awe-inspiring splendor can now be seen only on film. Fewer than 1,000 nesting females remain in the world. The Kemp’s ridley is small, weighing only 85 to 100 pounds and measuring from 2 to 2.5 feet in carapace length, but it has a tough and tenacious nature. Its principal diet is crabs and other crustaceans. During the 1980s, many eggs were removed from the beach at Rancho Nuevo and incubated in containers. The hatchlings that emerged from these eggs were then raised for almost a year in a National Marine Fisheries Service facility in Galveston, Texas. When they were released, it was hoped that these “headstarted” turtles would have a better chance of survival than they would have had as hatchlings. Unfortunately, there were many problems with this program. When it was discovered that the sex of turtle hatchlings was influenced by temperature, project workers realized that the method used to house the turtle eggs created an environment cooler than a natural nest on the beach, thus producing only male turtles. They also discovered that after release, many of the “headstarted” turtles did not behave like their wild counterparts. Many scientists worried that these “headstarted” turtles would never become reproducing adults. Although two “headstarted” turtles are known to have nested, headstarting is generally considered to be an inappropriate conservation technique for marine turtles.

Leatherback turtles can dive deeper than any other airbreathing animal except perhaps sperm whales and elephant seals. True denizens of the deep, leatherbacks are capable of descending more than 3,000 feet and of traveling more than 3,000 miles from their nesting beaches. They are found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, as far north as Alaska and Labrador. Researchers have found that leatherbacks are able to regulate their body temperature so that they can survive in cold waters. Leatherbacks are found in Florida’s coastal waters, and a small number (from 30 to 60 per year) nest in the state.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) The hawksbill is a small, agile turtle whose beautiful shell is its greatest liability. Although international trade in hawksbill products has been banned in much of the world, its shell is still used in some European and Asian countries to make jewelry, hair decorations, and other ornaments. The adult hawksbill weighs from 100 to 200 pounds. Its carapace is approximately 30 inches long and is shaded with black and brown markings on a background of amber. The scales of this kaleidoscopic armor overlap, and the rear of the carapace is serrated. Its body is oval-shaped; its head is narrow. Raptor-like jaws give the hawksbill its name. These jaws are perfectly adapted for collecting sponges, the hawksbill’s preferred food. Although sponges are composed of tiny glasslike needles, this potentially dangerous diet apparently causes the turtle no harm. Hawksbills, usually found in lagoons, reefs, bays, and estuaries of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, are the most tropical of the sea turtles. They are frequently spotted by divers off the Florida Keys, and a few nests are documented annually from the Keys to Canaveral National Seashore.

Threats to Sea Turtles Sea turtles face many threats from humans. They are hunted for their meat and shells, their eggs are stolen, and their nesting beaches are often degraded by condominiums, seawalls, and other structures. Hatchlings are lured to their deaths by the artificial lights on developed beaches; juveniles and adults may die after consuming discarded plastic bags, balloons, and other marine debris. Turtles of all sizes and ages may be

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drowned in shrimp trawls and gill nets. However, strong conservation measures offer hope that their future may not be so precarious. International treaties now prohibit trade in sea turtle products and impose high fines or prison terms on violators, but not all nations with sea turtle populations have signed these pacts. Many important nesting areas, including those in Florida, are at least partially protected from both human disturbance and natural predators such as raccoons, which have been known to sit directly behind nesting turtles and scoop up eggs as they are laid. Protection of nesting beaches remains a key goal in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s sea turtle conservation program. Managing coastal development on nesting beaches is another critical concern. State rules impose some limits on the construction of seawalls and other shoreline-hardening structures that can erode sandy nesting beaches, but such structures are still permitted in many areas where turtles nest. Additionally, beach renourishment projects designed to restore sandy beaches may pose a threat when they are conducted during the prime turtle-nesting season. It is not always possible to relocate all turtle nests in the path of the renourishment projects. Perhaps the most important step forward for sea turtles came in 1989, when all shrimpers in the United States were required to use special “turtle-excluder devices,” or TEDs, which allow turtles accidentally caught in nets to escape through a trap door. Before TEDs were required, an estimated 11,000 sea turtles died each year when they became trapped in shrimp nets and drowned. Kemp’s ridleys were especially hard-hit by shrimping impacts. Increases since 1989 in the number of nesting Kemp’s ridleys suggest that the TED regulations are reducing mortality. Biologists are also

teaching shrimpers in other countries to use these devices. There are encouraging signs of recovery and positive action in Florida: the number of green turtle nests appears to be increasing slowly, and the number of dead turtles found on beaches is decreasing gradually. Many coastal construction and beach renourishment permits now incorporate sea turtle protection measures. The Florida sea turtle vehicle license plate is available for purchase, and its sales generate dedicated funding for research. Such efforts may indeed help to secure a bright future for these “living fossils.”

Florida Counties with the Greatest Average Percentage of Loggerhead Nests, 2000-2005

A SI LU O V

# of Total Statewide Nests

Brevard Palm Beach Martin St. Lucie Indian River Sarasota Broward Volusia Collier

37% 20.7% 11.1% 7.9% 5.8% 4.3% 3.5% 2.6% 1.3%

D AR EV BR

County

INDIAN RIVER

ST LUCIE SARASOTA

MARTIN

PALM BEACH

COLLIER

BROWARD

November 2006

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

4


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

M

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

MANGROVES

angroves are woody plants that prefer protected, lowenergy shorelines in ­estuaries and lagoons. They are found along virtually every coast that has a tropical or ­subtropical climate. Worldwide, there are more than 35 species of mangroves. Florida has three mangrove species and ­another that is considered to have mangrove affinities. Their common names are Red Mangrove, Black ­Mangrove, White Mangrove, and Buttonwood (also called Button Mangrove). Each species occupies a ­particular elevation zone along the shoreline, although well-defined zones are usually apparent only on ­undisturbed shores with gentle slopes. Mangroves grow on a wide range of soils, from shelly sand bars and peats to rocky marls of the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. Mangroves are remarkable plants because they tolerate salt water. The ability of mangroves to deal with salt is crucial because it allows them to flourish in areas that most other woody plants cannot tolerate. They perform this feat by blocking the absorption of salt at their roots and by expelling salt through pores on the surfaces of their leaves. Mangrove leaves are often covered with salt during long, dry periods. This salt-water lifestyle reduces competition from other plants and also benefits mangroves by making them

eaters. This relationship may be poorly ­d eveloped in White ­Mangroves and ­Buttonwoods. Mangroves form fruit-like propagules (seedlings), which develop while still ­attached to the parent tree. At maturity, they drop ­into the water at the base of the trees and ­hitchhike on ­currents to new shores. ­Mangrove seedlings can form a thick carpet and ­completely cover some shorelines, but most will die. As they mature, mangroves form dense forests. A doctor who served with Christopher Columbus on his 1492 voyage to the Americas ­described the mangrove forests he saw as “so thick that a rabbit could scarcely walk through.” Wading through these tangled masses of roots and limbs is made even more difficult by the soft muds in which mangroves often grow.

Florida’s Walking Trees

Mangroves contain 10 to 100 times more salt than uplands and freshwater wetlands plants do. r­ elatively unpalatable to many plant eaters and disease organisms. The bumps at the base of White Mangrove and Buttonwood leaves were once misinterpreted to be salt glands, but in reality they are nectar glands that secrete sugars. Plants with functional nectar glands on the leaves often form relationships with ants, which, in return for the sugar, protect the plant from plant

Range and Distribution Compared to mangroves elsewhere, Florida’s ­mangroves live “on the edge,” because this is the highest latitude worldwide in which they survive. The warmth of the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Stream allows mangroves to ­persist in these climes. Only scattered stands are found north of Pinellas County on the gulf coast and Brevard County on the Atlantic coast. Because of their ­precarious existence amid a highly variable climate, even the tallest Florida mangroves are smaller than those in more tropical regions. The majority of the state’s ­mangrove forests are concentrated in south Florida, but occasional freezes and devastating hurricanes make even this region a stressful sanctuary. Although south Florida mangroves are generally taller and more robust than those elsewhere in the state, some dwarf “forests” in the Florida Keys are an exception. The hard, low-­nutrient, limestone substrate underlying the Keys makes it difficult for mangroves to gain a toehold, and those that do survive are usually stunted, unless they grow in deeper peat


depressions or thick, marly muds. Estimates of the extent of mangrove coverage in Florida vary, but scientists generally agree that 400,000–600,000 acres currently fringe the state, most of these in the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park. In years with warm winters, the range of mangroves may extend farther north. Conversely, ­severe freezes can shrink their range southward and kill or stress thousands of acres of trees. Each species ­tolerates freezing in different ways. Black Mangroves are the least cold sensitive; only freezes affect Black Mangroves and rarely kill them outright. White ­Mangroves are the most directly sensitive species but regrow rapidly from root and trunk sprouts. Red ­Mangroves are intermediate in direct sensitivity to cold but are more readily killed because regrowth is severely limited. Buttonwoods are similar to White Mangroves in their response to freezing.

washes onto shore, smaller roots ­extend from the brown, pointed root tip and ­gradually lift it into an ­upright ­position. The Red Mangrove propagule was considered an aphrodisiac by ancient Persians, and the tannins in the tree’s bark and roots were widely used by early ­Floridians to tan and dye leather goods red. Red ­Mangroves also have antimicrobial properties that may one day prove useful.

Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) Named in honor of the 10th-century Persian physician Avicenna, Black Mangroves occupy a slightly higher ­elevation along the shore than Red Mangroves do. Black Mangroves may reach heights of 60 feet but in Florida are generally shorter. Black Mangroves have ­aerial roots, called pneumatophores, which jut up from the soil like gnarled fingers. They—like Red ­Mangrove prop roots—provide oxygen to the buried root ­system. In stagnant water, Black Mangroves may produce ­aerial and prop roots similar to those of Red Mangroves. Black Mangroves have elliptical, bluntly pointed leaves that are dull green with gray-green to whitish undersides; they dry black with white backs. The leaf blades have tiny pores through which the plant ­excretes salt. The Black Mangrove excretes more salt than any other Florida mangrove does, and these salt crystals are often visible on its leaves in dry weather. Sodium ­chloride (table salt) makes up about 95% of the salt on Black Mangrove leaves. The Black Mangrove has clusters of yellowthroated, creamy-white flowers at the ends of its branches from midsummer to early fall. These flowers produce one-inch-wide, lima-bean-like fruits that drop into the water when ­mature. Unlike Red Mangrove, the entire fruit of Black Mangrove functions as its propagule. As it floats in the water, the fruit cover sloughs off, and the ­propagule unfolds into a butterfly-like, fleshy seedling that extends a main root covered with hairs. Small roots arise from the main root and anchor the seedling to the shore. Early Spanish colonists used salt-laden mangrove leaves to flavor soups and stews, while later settlers ground the bark into a tea that was used to treat ­ulcers, hemorrhoids, and tumors. Some south Florida beekeepers still produce honey from Black Mangrove flower nectar; consequently, Black Mangrove is also known as the “Honey Mangrove.” Black Mangroves ­contain natural mosquito repellents, but the wood may irritate the skin with repeated contact. Like Red

Descriptions of Mangroves Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) The name Rhizophora is derived from “rhizo” meaning “root” and “phora” meaning “carrier” or “bearer.” “Mangle” (pronounced main'-glee) is the Arawak Indian tribe’s name for the plant. Red Mangroves may reach 100 feet tall, although they are usually shorter in the higher latitudes; in Tampa Bay, for instance, they rarely exceed 30 feet tall. Red Mangrove is usually the most seaward of the four Florida species and the most ­easily recognized. It has shiny, deep-green leaves with slightly paler-green undersides. Red Mangrove can be readily distinguished by its tangled, reddish aerial roots and prop roots that arch into the sediment from the branches and trunks. Prop roots support the plant in unstable muck and have pores, called lenticels, on their surfaces that allow gas exchange with the buried roots. Because the roots and branches grow laterally, they actually “walk” forward into deeper waters. Hence, Red Mangroves have been dubbed “walking trees.” Red Mangroves have wind-pollinated, ­yellowish-green, waxy flowers. After pollination, the Red Mangrove flower produces a 1-inch long, ­conical fruit from which grows a 12- to 18-inch propagule that ­resembles a string bean. This propagule is actually a self-contained seedling (mostly root) that breaks away from the fruit—which remains on the tree—and floats in the water for up to a year. When the propagule

2


­ angrove, Black Mangrove is high in tannins and has M been used to tan leather.

the Florida Bay area, where the remains of charcoal kilns can still be found. Like the other mangroves, ­Buttonwood contains a high level of tannins and has been used to tan leather. The silver-leaved variety is used in landscapes in south Florida. Although closely related to the White Mangrove, the Buttonwood is often not considered a “true” mangrove because it lacks reproductive and root characters ­typical of most mangroves. Buttonwoods are frequently ­associated with mangroves, however, and can grow in the upper range of tides. Because they often grow above the tide range, they are not afforded the same state protections that the other mangroves are.

White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) Named for a type of Roman bottle or jug called a ­“laguncula”—whose shape the White Mangrove fruit resembles—this species usually grows more inland behind Red Mangroves and Black Mangroves. The smallest of the three Florida species, White Mangroves top out at about 40 to 50 feet in south Florida but ­usually do not exceed 25 feet in the northern parts of its range. White Mangrove has yellow-green, oval leaves, which often contain notched tips. Unlike its counterparts, the White Mangrove usually has no ­visible aerial roots. When growing in deeper or ­stagnant water, White Mangroves may express an aerial root ­system similar to the Black Mangrove’s. Its small, ­fragile pneumathodes—which arise from buried, ­bulbous peg roots—usually do not emerge above the sediment and so are rarely seen. White Mangroves produce nondescript, ­greenish-white flowers pollinated by insects. Its ­propagule is a three-quarter-inch, pear-shaped, ­flattened fruit that is dispersed when it falls from the tree into the water. After floating in the water for ­several days, the White Mangrove propagule exerts a shinygreen root from one end and roots when tides strand it on the shore. Like the Black Mangrove, White Mangrove flowers produce nectar and are used to produce honey. A bark extract has antitumor properties, and the tannin ­content makes it useful for tanning leather. In Brazil, it is used extensively in the leather industry.

Why Mangroves Are Important Once considered fetid, mosquito-ridden wastelands, mangroves are now recognized as a vital component of estuarine shores. Mangroves provide the two most basic requirements for animal survival: food and ­shelter. The food comes from the rich “marine compost” ­produced by insect (frass) and bird droppings and leaf and twig litter that fall from mangrove canopies into the water and are consumed by microorganisms. This processed organic material, called detritus, fuels a complex food web that begins with algae, fungi, and ­bacteria and transfers energy to larger organisms all the way to top-level ­predators such as snook, tarpon, and humans. Shelter is provided by the concealment afforded by the tangled prop roots and pneumatophores that extend below the water line. Animals also find ­shelter in the thick canopy, which shades the ­shoreline waters with dense, overhanging branches.

Buttonwood or Button Mangrove (Conocarpus erectus) Buttonwoods are named for their button-shaped or cone-like fruit clusters. The buttons disintegrate when they ripen, releasing the small fruit segments, which are conveyed by water or wind to a suitable site where they can sprout. Buttonwoods are often shrubby, ­especially in areas that freeze often, and rarely attain a height over 15 to 20 feet. The trees have lanceshaped, green leaves with two obliquely arranged nectar glands at the base of the blade. One variant (var. sericeus) is covered with fine hairs, giving the leaves a silvery-gray sheen. Unlike the other mangroves, which usually have leaves arranged opposite each other, Buttonwood has alternately arranged leaves. At one time, the yellow-brown heartwood of ­Buttonwood was an important source of charcoal in

As many as 217 species of fish and 200 species of insects have been collected from mangrove areas in south Florida. Mangroves are important as nurseries for ­juveniles and as habitats for a wide variety of adult fish and ­shellfish. As many as 95% of all commercially ­important fish in south Florida spend some parts of their life ­cycles in mangroves. A short list of creatures that use mangroves includes snappers, snook, mullet, seatrout, redfish, shrimp, oysters, and blue crabs. Above the water, mangrove tree crabs scurry along the trunks and branches, and diamondback terrapins bask on the prop roots. Mangroves are a critical habitat for the

3


Oil spills may kill or stress mangroves by plugging the airways of prop roots and pneumatophores, ­causing the plant to suffocate. One study in Tampa Bay ­suggests that a severe oil spill may inhibit mangrove regrowth and productivity for 10 to 50 years. Attempts to ­remedy oil-spill damage may actually further harm the plant and community functions. Mangrove trimming on private and state-owned lands is guaranteed by state law so that landowners can view the water. Nevertheless, excessive trimming ­impairs the habitat value of mangroves and often kills them. What effect trimming has on system ­productivity remains unknown. Mangrove-trimming violations add to the losses from other causes, making mature ­mangroves the most threatened marine habitat in Florida.

American crocodile, which is found only in south Florida. Many migratory birds (for example, warblers) ­depend on mangrove canopies for food and shelter during their migrations. A variety of diving and ­wading birds, including the brown pelican and many herons and egrets, nest and roost in mangrove canopies. Insects flit about and consume large quantities of the foliage, helping to encourage leaf turnover, which benefits the underwater inhabitants of the system. Birds and ­spiders feed on insects as they feed on the leaves and pollinate the flowers of mangroves. Some insects are so linked to mangroves that they have evolved to look like ­mangrove twigs and leaves. In addition to their values as habitat, mangroves also perform other functions. They stabilize sediments beneath their roots and trunks, a process that also captures pollutants, preventing them from ­contaminating nearby waters. In addition, they serve as windscreens to buffer the effects of storms on coastal areas and buffer waves that would suspend shoreline sediments in the water. Therefore, water quality is ­improved and maintained by nutrient uptake and ­immobilization, filtration, and wave attenuation.

Worldwide, humans have destroyed more acres of mangroves than any other type of coastal ecosystem. Marine-wetlands restoration projects—which c­ reate intertidal elevations, return tidal flows to shorelines, and encourage the growth of mangroves— are helping to offset historical destruction. Additionally, developers are required, through mitigation projects, to create new mangrove wetlands to compensate for those lost ­during a construction project. Despite mitigation ­requirements, mangrove losses continue to accumulate because ­creation of specific mangrove habitats has remained ­difficult. Often mitigation permits do not even require mangroves to be planted. Research in mangrove ecology and restoration with regard to habitat quality needs to be supported so that this system, so critical to the high quality of life in Florida, can be conserved for future generations.

Threats to Mangroves Around the world, mangrove destruction continues at an alarming pace, especially to create huge ponds for shrimp farming and other aquaculture. The benefits of sacrificing mangroves to aquacultural interests are usually short-lived. In Florida in the past, the major threat came from dredging and filling associated with coastal development. Most of the destruction occurred prior to the 1970s, however, before the state enacted regulations to protect mangroves. Waterfront ­d evelopment and construction of dikes around ­mangroves to control mosquito breeding have ­destroyed much of the mangroves in the Indian River Lagoon.

May 2009

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • (727) 896-8626 • http://research.MyFWC.com

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Florida Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations

Issued: June 2019 New regulations are highlighted in red (please visit: MyFWC.com/Fishing/Saltwater/Recreational for the most current regulations) All art: © Diane Rome Peebles, except snowy grouper (Duane Raver)

Regulations apply to state waters of the Gulf and Atlantic

Reef Fish Snapper General Snapper Regulations: ••Snapper Aggregate Bag Limit - Within state waters of the Atlantic and Gulf, all species of snapper are included in a 10 fish per harvester per day aggregate bag limit in any combination of snapper species, unless stated otherwise. ••Seasons – If no seasonal information is provided, the species is open year-round.

Other Snapper

Snapper, Cubera  u l Snapper, Red  u l X Snapper,Vermilion u l X Snapper, Lane Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 12" (see remarks) Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 10 per harvester under 30", included within snapper aggregate bag limit ••May additionally harvest up to 2 per harvester or vessel-whichever is lessover 30", and these 2 fish over 30" are not included within snapper aggregate bag limit

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 20" ••Gulf - 16"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 12" ••Gulf - 10"

Season: ••Atlantic - Open year-round ••Gulf - Open June 11 - July 12, 2019

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 5 per harvester not included within snapper aggregate bag limit ••Gulf - 10 per harvester not included within snapper aggregate bag limit

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 2 per harvester ••Gulf - Zero daily bag and possession limit for captain and crew on for-hire vessels.

ul

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 8" Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 10 per harvester ••Gulf - 100 pounds per harvester, not included within snapper aggregate bag limit

ul

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 12" Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 10 per harvester Remarks ••Includes: Dog, Mahogany, and Yellowtail ••No minimum size limit for Blackfin, Queen, and Silk

Grouper

Snapper, Gray (Mangrove)

Snapper,

 u l Snapper, Mutton  u l Schoolmaster

ul

Snapper, Black & Wenchman

l

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 10"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 18"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 10"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - None

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 5 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 5 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 10 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 10 per harvester

Atlantic Grouper General Regulations: ••Atlantic grouper regulations apply to all state waters of the Atlantic and all state waters off Monroe County (Gulf and Atlantic sides). ••Atlantic Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit - all species of grouper plus golden tilefish in the Atlantic are included in a 3 fish per harvester per day aggregate bag limit in any combination of grouper/ golden tilefish species. ••Seasons – If no seasonal information is provided, the species is open year-round.

Grouper, Black  u l X Grouper, Snowy Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 24" ••Gulf - 24" Season: ••Atlantic - Closed Jan. 1–April 30 ••Gulf - Open year-round

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Grouper, Warsaw Grouper, Red  u l X & Speckled Hind Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 20"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - None

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 1 per harvester ••Gulf - 4 per harvester

Season: ••Atlantic - Closed Jan. 1–April 30 ••Gulf - Open year-round

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 1 per vessel per day of each species

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 3 per harvester ••Gulf - 2 per Harvester*

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 1 per harvester. Only 1 fish can be gag or black ••Gulf - 4 per harvester*

Gulf Grouper General Regulations: ••Gulf grouper regulations apply to all state waters of the Gulf except off Monroe County (where Atlantic rules apply). ••Gulf Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit - all species of grouper in the Gulf are included in a 4 fish per harvester per day aggregate bag limit in any combination of grouper species. ••Seasons – If no seasonal information is provided, the species is open year-round. * Zero bag limit for captain and crew of for-hire vessels applies to gag, black, and red grouper only.

l

Minimum Size Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - None

Grouper, Yellowfin

Grouper, Scamp  u l

Gag Grouper

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 20" ••Gulf - 16"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 24" ••Gulf - 24"

Other Grouper includes: ••Rock Hind, Red Hind, Coney and Graysby

Season: ••Atlantic - Closed Jan. 1–April 30 ••Gulf - Open year-round

Season: ••Atlantic - Closed: Jan. 1–April 30 ••Gulf - State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties: Open April 1 –June 30, & Sept 1–Dec. 31. ••Gulf - State waters off all other counties: Open June 1–Dec. 31

Minimum Size Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - None

Season: ••Atlantic - Closed Jan. 1–April 30 ••Gulf - Open year-round

Season: ••Atlantic - Closed Jan. 1–April 30 ••Gulf - Open year-round

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 3 per harvester ••Gulf - 4 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 3 per harvester ••Gulf - 4 per harvester

ulX

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 1 per harvester. Only 1 fish can be gag or black ••Gulf - 2 per harvester*

Other Grouper

 l & Yellowmouth

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Aggregate bag limits apply

ul

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 20"


All art: © Diane Rome Peebles, except golden tilefish (Duane Raver); lionfish (FWC)

Reef Fish

Other Reef Fish (If no season information is provided, the species is open year-round)

Amberjack, Greater

lX

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 28" fork length ••Gulf - 34" fork length

Great Barracuda

 n Hogfish

Regulations only apply in Collier, Monroe, MiamiDade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties.

Season: ••Atlantic - Open year-round ••Gulf - Open Aug. 1–Oct. 31 Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 1 per harvester

Red Porgy

Minimum Size Limits: ••Not less than 15" or more than 36"

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 16" fork length ••Gulf - 14" fork length

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 per person or 6 per vessel ••May possess one over 36" per vessel. ••Unregulated in all other areas.

Season: ••Atlantic - Open May 1–Oct. 31 ••Gulf - Open year round

 u l Tilefish, Golden

l

lX

Season: ••Atlantic - Open year-round ••Gulf - Closed Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 10 per harvester ••Gulf - 1 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 1 per harvester ••Gulf - 5 per harvester

l

Triggerfish (Gray) Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic – 12" fork length ••Gulf - 15" fork length

Atlantic regulations apply to Monroe county

Amberjack, Lesser & Banded Rudderfish

 l X Black Sea Bass

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 14" ••Gulf - None

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 1 per harvester ••Gulf - 4 per harvester

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic and Gulf - Cannot be less than 14" or greater than 22" fork length

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 13" ••Gulf - 10"

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 3 per harvester ••Gulf - 100 pounds

Remarks ••Golden tilefish included within Atlantic and Gulf Grouper aggregate bag limits

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic and Gulf - 5 per person aggregate of the two species

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 7 per harvester ••Gulf - 100 pounds per harvester

Mackerel, King

Mackerel, Spanish

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Pelagics

Billfish

 H Swordfish

Minimum Size Limits: ••Sailfish 63"; ••Blue Marlin 99"; ••White Marlin 66"; ••Roundscale Spearfish 66"

H

Minimum Size Limits: ••47" lower jaw fork length with head attached or 25" cleithrum to keel length if head removed

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 per harvester aggregate bag limit

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 per harvester per day, not to exceed a maximum of 4 per recreational (not for-hire) vessel or 15 per for-hire vessel

Remarks ••Measured tip of lower jaw to fork. All landed fish must be reported to NOAA within 24 hours 800-894-5528 or hmspermits.noaa.gov. ••HMS permit required in federal waters.

Remarks ••All landed fish must be reported to NOAA within 24 hours 800-894-5528. HMS permit required in federal waters. Zero daily bag and possession limit for captain and crew of for-hire vessels.

Wahoo

Cobia (Ling)

Minimum Size Limits: ••24" fork length

Minimum Size Limits: ••12" fork length

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic (excluding Monroe) - 2 per harvester ••Gulf (including Monroe) - 3 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••15 per harvester

Remarks ••Bag limit reduced to 1 in some state waters if federal waters are closed to recreational harvest.

Tripletail

 HuTn

Minimum Size Limits: ••None

Minimum Size Limits: ••33" fork length

Minimum Size Limits: ••18"

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Atlantic - 1 per harvester not to exceed 6 per vessel ••Gulf - 1 per harvester, not to exceed 2 per vessel

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 per harvester

Scan this code with your mobile device to view the regulations online.

Remarks ••Hook and line only. No snatch hooks.

Buy your license online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or toll free at: 1-888-347-4356

Dolphinfish

Minimum Size Limits: ••Atlantic - 20" fork length ••Gulf - None Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••10 per harvester per day, not to exceed 60 per vessel per day. Vessel limit does not apply to for-hire vessels.

Report fish and wildlife law violations toll free at: 1-888-404-3922

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Coastal Species

Bluefish

 n Flounder

Pompano,

 u T Bonefish

H n African

l H  T n Sheepshead l  u T n

Minimum Size Limits: ••12" fork length

Minimum Size Limits: ••12"

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••0 per harvester

Minimum Size Limits: ••24" fork length

Minimum Size Limits: ••12"

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••10 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••10 per harvester

Remarks ••Catch and release only ••Hook and line only

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 per harvester per day, not to exceed 2 per vessel

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••8 per harvester

Remarks ••May be harvested by spearing. Snatching prohibited.

Permit

l H Tn

Size Limits: ••22" fork Special Permit Zone (SPZ); Not less than 11" or more than 22" fork length all other areas Closed Season: ••April 1–July 31 SPZ Only Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 per harvester, not to exceed 2 per vessel SPZ; ••2 per harvester all other state waters Remarks ••May possess 1 over 22" fork length outside the SPZ, not to exceed 2 over 22" fork per vessel per day. For map of SPZ, please see: MyFWC.com. ••Zero daily bag and possession limit for captain and crew on for-hire vessels

Black Drum

Spotted Seatrout

l H u T n Weakfish

Size Limits: ••Not less than 15" or more than 20" (See remarks) Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••5 per harvester per day N.W. Zone ••4 per harvester per day S.W. Zone ••4 per harvester per day S.E. Zone ••6 per harvester per day N.E. Zone

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Minimum Size Limits: ••Weakfish Management Area (WMA) in Nassau County - 12" ••All other areas - no minimum Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••WMA - 1 per harvester ••All other areas - 100 pounds per harvester

Remarks Remarks ••May possess no more than 1 over 20"; ••Regulations apply in parts of Nassau County only. included in the regional bag limit. See management zone map at MyFWC.com. ••See map at: MyFWC.com/Fishing/ Saltwater/Recreational/Weakfish ••Catch and release only in SW region, see MyFWC.com for more information.

Pompano,

 u T n Florida

Snook (All species)

Remarks ••Snatching prohibited ••Vessel limit of 50 fish during March and April

 H u T n Tarpon

lHTn

Size Limits: ••Not less than 28" or more than 32" Atlantic excluding Monroe ••Not less than 28" or more than 33" Gulf and Monroe County

Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 per harvester per year. $50 harvest tag required. Vessel limit of one fish. Harvest tag can only be used when fish is retained for potential IGFA record.

Closed Season: ••Atlantic (excluding Monroe) closed Dec. 15–Jan. 31 and June 1–Aug. 31. ••Gulf including Monroe County, Dec. 1– end of February, and May 1–Aug. 31. Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 per harvester

Remarks ••Tarpon over 40 inches must remain in the water during release. Spearing and snatch hooking prohibited. Bottom weighted jigs prohibited in Boca Grande Pass. See: MyFWC.com/Fishing/ Saltwater/Recreational/Tarpon for additional information.

Remarks ••Snook permit required for harvest when saltwater license required. See MyFWC.com for snook permit details. Snatch hooks and spearing prohibited. ••Zero daily bag and possession limit for captain and crew on for-hire vessels ••Catch and release only in SW region, see MyFWC.com for more information

Red Drum (Redfish)

HuT

Size Limits: ••Not less than 18" or more than 27"

Mullet, Striped

 H T n (Black) & Silver

Size Limits: ••Not less than 14" or more than 24"

Minimum Size Limits: ••11" fork length

Minimum Size Limits: ••No minimum size

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••5 per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••6 per harvester

Remarks ••May possess one over 24". Snatching prohibited.

Remarks ••Hook and line, cast net and beach or haul seine ONLY.

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••50 aggregate per harvester; ••Aggregate vessel limits Feb. 1–Aug. 31: 100 per vessel; Sept. 1–Jan. 31: 50 per vessel

Blue Runner

n

Minimum Size Limits: ••No minimum Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••100 fish per harvester

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 per harvester per day in the NE zone, and 1 per harvester in the NW and S zone. See map on p. 6 ••Off the water possession limit of 6 fish Remarks ••Gigging, spearing, snatching prohibited. Harvest in Federal waters prohibited. ••Catch and release only in SW region, see MyFWC.com for more information

Can't find your fish in the regulations? Florida’s coastal waters are home to thousands of marine species, and the majority of these species have no specific regulations with regard to bag limits, size limits, gear restrictions or closed seasons. These species are often referred to as “unregulated species,” although the name can be a bit misleading. State law provides that for any marine species that does not have specific regulations, harvesting more than 100 pounds or two fish (whichever is the greater amount) constitutes a commercial quantity and requires a commercial license. This means the recreational harvest limit for any unregulated species is 100 pounds or two organisms if the combined weight of the two organisms exceeds 100 pounds.

H Spearing Prohibited  Must remain in whole condition (removal of gills and guts allowed). u Measured as total length. Total length is the straight line distance from the most forward part of the head with the mouth closed to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed together while the fish is lying on its side. n State regulations apply in federal waters.

12

  January 1, 2019

Gulf Kingfish

Jack Crevalle

Lionfish

Hardhead Catfish

Examples of "unregulated species" include: Ladyfish, bonito, menhaden, white grunt, southern stingray, gulf kingfish (whiting), pinfish, Atlantic croaker, jack crevalle, cero mackerel, hardhead catfish, gafftopsail catfish, lionfish and blackfin tuna.

* No license is required to harvest lionfish by dipnet, pole spear or Hawaiian sling and lionfish bag limit is unlimited for both Gulf and Atlantic state waters .

l Additional gear rules apply, please see: MyFWC.com T  Harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook (any hook with two or more points and a common shaft) in conjunction with live or dead natural bait.

X  Gulf reef fish survey required when fishing for selected reef species from a private vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Crustaceans and Mollusks

Bay Scallops

l

Season: ••Gulf County: Aug. 16-Sept. 15, 2019 ••Franklin-NW Taylor & Levy-Hernando: July 1- Sept. 24 , 2019 ••SW Taylor - Dixie: June 15 – Sept. 10, 2019 ••Pasco County: July 19 - 28, 2019 Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 gallons whole or 1 pint meat per harvester; no more than 10 gallons whole, or ½ gallon meat per vessel anytime Remarks ••Harvest allowed only in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the Pinellas - Pasco county line, to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. Direct transit through closed areas permitted.

Shrimp

Closed Season: ••April & May closed in Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler & Clay counties Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••5 gallons heads on per harvester or vessel, whichever is less Remarks ••Visit: MyFWC.com/Fishing and select "Saltwater", "Regulations" and "Shrimp" for additional regulations specific to Dade, Nassau and Duval

Spiny Lobster

H

Minimum Size Limit: ••Carapace must be greater than 3" measured in the water Seasons: ••Sport Season open July 24-25, 2019 ••Regular Season opens Aug. 6 through March 31 Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••Sport Season: 6 per harvester per day in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, 12 in all other harvest areas. ••Regular Season: 6 per harvester in all areas Remarks ••Recreational trapping prohibited. Spiny lobster permit required when license required. Harvest of egg-bearing females prohibited.

Clams (Hard)

l

Minimum Size Limits: ••1" thick across hinge Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••One 5 gal. bucket per harvester or 2 per vessel (whole in shell) Remarks ••Illegal to harvest from closed areas. ••Go to www.FloridaAquaculture.com for allowable harvesting areas. ••May not harvest half hour after official sunset until half hour before official sunrise.

Crab, Stone

Hn

Oysters

Minimum Size Limits: ••2 ¾" claw

Minimum Size Limit: ••3"

Closed Season: ••May 16–Oct. 14

Closed Season: ••June, July, Aug. in Dixie, Wakulla, Levy counties. ••July, Aug., Sept. in all other areas except Apalachicola Bay which has open areas year-round.

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 gal. claws per harvester or 2 gal. per vessel, whichever is less Remarks ••5 traps maximum. Visit MyFWC.com for statewide trap construction requirements and specific requirements that apply in Miami-Dade, Monroe and Collier. Illegal to possess whole crab. Harvest of egg-bearing crabs prohibited. See how to properly de-claw on our website.

Crab, Blue

H

Closed Season: ••Regional trap closures apply. See map on page 6 or visit MyFWC.com for 2019 trap closure dates and locations. Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••10 gallons whole per harvester Remarks ••5 traps maximum. Trap requirements apply. Harvest of egg-bearing crabs prohibited.

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••2 bags per harvester or vessel except Apalachicola Bay Remarks ••Apalachicola Bay: special bag limits and other harvest restrictions apply. See MyFWC.com for detailed information. ••Apalachicola Bay has summer & winter seasons/ areas. ••Harvest from approved shellfish areas during daylight hours only. ••Go to FloridaAquaculture.com to determine the Open or Closed status of shellfish harvesting areas. ••May not harvest half hour after official sunset until half hour before official sunrise. ••1 Bag = 60 lbs. or two 5 gal. buckets (whole in shell) ••Harvest prohibited in any harvest area that is in the Closed status as determined by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. ••Bay County: Harvest and possession prohibited in West Bay Estuarine Habitat Restoration Project Zone

Sharks Retainable Sharks with a 54" fork length minimum  H T Blue, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, shortfin mako (not illustrated).

Bull

Common Thresher Nurse

Spinner

Retainable Sharks with no minimum size limit  H T

Atlantic Sharpnose

Blacknose

Bonnethead

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: ••1 per harvester or 2 per vessel per day, whichever is less. Remarks ••The retainable sharks are managed as a group for bag limit purposes. In other words, you can only harvest one shark per day and the shark that you harvest must be one of the retainable species. ••Hook-and-line gear only. ••Effective July 1, 2019. New shoreline shark fishing permit and new gear/handling requirements, see MyFWC.com ••See list of prohibited species below.

Blacktip

Finetooth

Smooth Dogfish

Prohibited Species It is unlawful to harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell or exchange the following species: Goliath Grouper (Jewfish), Nassau Grouper, Sawfish, Atlantic Angel Shark, Basking Shark, Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark, Bigeye Sixgill Shark, Bigeye Thresher Shark, Bignose Shark, Caribbean Reef Shark, Caribbean Sharpnose Shark, Dusky Shark, Galapagos Shark, Lemon Shark, Longfin Mako Shark, Narrowtooth Shark, Night Shark, Silky Shark, Sand Tiger Shark, Sandbar Shark, Sevengill Shark, Sixgill Shark, Smalltail Shark, Spiny Dogfish, Whale Shark, White Shark, Tiger Shark, Greater, Scalloped and Smooth Hammerhead Shark, Manta Ray, Devil Ray, Spotted Eagle Ray, Longbill Spearfish, Mediterranean Spearfish, Sturgeon, Queen Conch, Calico Scallop, Stony, Hard, Black and Fire Corals, Sea Fans, Bahama Starfish, and Longspine Urchin. Harvest of live rock in state waters is prohibited. Puffer fish harvest is prohibited in Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.

FWC – Division of Marine Fisheries Management, 2590 Executive Center Circle East, Tallahassee, FL 32301

Phone: 850-487-0554

This publication is provided as a guide to Florida fishing laws and regulations. The Florida Administrative Code is the final authority on fishing laws. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) strives to ensure information in this booklet is accurate, but assumes no liability for any errors that occur in this publication.


MARINE LIFE

Marine life regulations Requirements for marine life (aquarium species) harvest:

■■ Recreational saltwater fishing license ■■ Organisms must be landed and kept alive ■■ A continuously circulating live well, aeration or oxygenation system of adequate size to maintain these organisms in a healthy condition ■■ Allowable Gear: hand-held net, drop net, rod, barrier net, slurp gun (use of quinaldine is prohibited)* ■■ Bag Limit: 20 organisms per person per day; only 5 of any one species allowed within the 20-organism bag limit ■■ Possession Limit: 2-day possession limit, 40 total organisms, no more than 10 of any one species allowed ■■ Allowable substrate: see species specifications in table ■■ Closed areas: Some closed areas exist** ■■ Sale of recreationally caught marine life organisms is prohibited ■■ Regulations also apply in federal waters * Some organisms have additional gear limitations, see chart. ** Various closed areas exist. See regulations for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and Florida’s State Parks before collecting in these areas. Additional rules apply to the collection of shells containing live organisms in Lee or Manatee counties.

Marine Life — Fish SPECIES

REMARKS1

Angelfish

No more than 5 per person per day in any combination

Butterflyfish Filefish/Triggerfish Gobies Hamlets/Seabasses Jawfish Parrotfish Porkfish Pufferfish, Burrfish, Balloonfish, Porcupinefish Tangs and Surgeonfish

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Maximum size limit: 2" Except reef fish2 and Longtail Bass Maximum size limit: 4" Maximum size limit: 12" Minimum size limit: 1½" Includes Sharpnose Pufferfish, Striped Burrfish, Spotted Burrfish, Balloonfish, Porcupinefish

Wrasse/Hogfish/Razorfish Except Hogfish Snapper

Maximum size limit (fork length): 9" Spanish Hogfish: 2–8" slot limit Cuban Hogfish: 3–8" slot limit

Marine Life — Invertebrates SPECIES Anemones Conch, Queen Corals: Hard ,stony, fire & black Octocorals Crab, Hermit Crab, Horseshoe Live Rock Octopods3 Sea Fans Siphonophores/Hydroids

Starfish3 Urchins3

REMARKS1 Corallimorphs and Zoanthids: No more than 5 polyps of each may be landed per person per day, must be harvested with a flexible blade no wider than 2". Corallimorphs must be harvested as single polyps only. Zero bag limit on Giant Anemone (Condylactis gigantea). Harvest prohibited Harvest prohibited No more than 6 octocoral colonies per person per day in any combination; harvest of attached substrate within 1" of base is permitted; harvest closes when quota met. Except Land Hermit Crabs Harvest prohibited Harvest prohibited Except Common Octopus Harvest of Venus Sea Fan and Common (Purple) Sea Fan prohibited Harvest of Fire Coral prohibited Except Sheepswool, Yellow, Grass, Glove, Finger, Wire, Reef and Velvet Sponges; no more than 5 sponges per harvester per day in any combination; harvest of substrate within 1" of base permitted north and west of the southernmost point of Egmont Key, no substrate allowed south of Egmont Key Harvest of Bahama Starfish (Cushion Sea Star) prohibited Except Sand Dollars & Sea Biscuits; harvest of Longspine Urchin prohibited

Other Marine Life invertebrates include 1: Brittlestars3, Decorator (Furcate Spider) Crab, False Arrow Crab, Green Clinging (Emerald) Crab, Nimble Spray (Urchin) Crab, Red Mithrax Crab, Red-Ridged Clinging Crab, Spotted Porcelain Crab, Yellowline Arrow Crab, Fileclams3, Upside-down Jellyfish, Nudibranchs/Sea Slugs3, Sea Cucumbers3, Sea Lilies, Cleaner/Peppermint Shrimp, Coral Shrimp, Snapping Shrimp, Nassarius Snails3, Starsnails3, Featherduster Worms and Calcareous Tube Worms.

Marine Life — Plants SPECIES

LIMITS

Algae, Coralline Red Caulerpa Halimeda/Mermaid's Fan/ Mermaid's Shaving Brush

On the Little Manatee River

Except Unicorn Filefish, Gray Triggerfish and Ocean Triggerfish

Other Marine Life fish include 1: Basslets, Batfish, Blackbar Soldierfish, Blennies, Brotulas (Black and Key), Cardinalfish, Clingfish, Cornetfish, Damselfish, Eels (Moray and Snake), Frogfish, Hawkfish, High-hat/Jackknifefish/Spotted Drum/Cubbyu, Pipefish, Reef Croakers, Seahorses, Sleepers, Yellow Stingray, Sweepers, Toadfish, Trumpetfish and Trunkfish/Cowfish.

Sponges

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SIZE LIMITS (total length unless otherwise noted) Gray, French Angelfish: 1½–8" slot limit Blue, Queen Angelfish: 1¾–8" slot limit Rock Beauty: 2–5" slot limit 1–4" slot limit

One gallon of tropical ornamental marine plants per day in any combination; 2 gallon maximum possession limit

1–Unless otherwise noted, combined bag limit of 20 marine life fish and invertebrates per person per day, only 5 of any one species allowed. A 2-day possession limit also applies (40 total organisms, only 10 of any one species). 2–Such as groupers, snappers, seabass and amberjacks. Must abide by regulations for these species on pages 10–11. 3–Bag limit of 2 live shell fish of any single species per harvester per day in Manatee County. Harvest prohibited in Lee County.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


NE W SH A R K R EG UL AT I O NS

New Shark Regulations – Effective July 1, 2019 If you fish for sharks from shore or from a boat, heads up, several new regulations go into effect July 1 that will impact you. FWC approved changes earlier this year after months of collecting public input and working with stakeholders. The updates are intended to increase survival of released sharks, improve information gathering for the shore-based fishery and address some of the public safety concerns related to the fishery.

Fishing for sharks from shore? You need the permit.

Adult anglers fishing for shark from shore must take an online educational shore-based shark fishing course AND have a no-cost, shore-based shark fishing permit (renew annually). This permit will be associated with your recreational fishing license if you are required to have one. Fishing for sharks from a vessel does not require the additional permit. This requirement is for all adult anglers that require a license (as well as those over the age of 65 who are normally exempt from needing a license) targeting or harvesting sharks from shore, including from any structure attached to shore such as jetties, bridges and piers. The permit is also required if fishing from shore for any species under the following circumstances: ■■ Fishing with a metal leader more than 4 feet long, ■■ Using a fighting belt/harness, or ■■ Deploying bait by any means other than casting (kayaking for example) while using a hook that is 1 ½ inches or larger at the widest inside distance.

Those 16 and younger fishing for sharks from shore or as otherwise described above are not required to obtain the permit but will be required to take the online educational course unless they are fishing with an adult who already holds the permit.

When chumming for shark or other species…

Chumming is prohibited when fishing for any species (not just sharks) from the beach.

What if I catch a prohibited shark species?

Whether fishing from shore, or from a boat, prohibited species must remain in the water. When fishing from shore, prohibited sharks must be released immediately. Hook removal or cutting the hook or leader must be completed as quickly as possible to prevent delaying release of prohibited species.

What kind of gear do I use when fishing for sharks?

hen fishing from shore or vessel, non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hooks must be used when fishing for sharks with live or dead natural bait. The new rules also require that you be in possession of a device capable of quickly cutting your hook or leader (bolt cutters or cable cutters for example). Learn more about the online education course and how to get the permit, see a list of prohibited sharks, and more at MyFWC.com/ Marine by clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Sharks.”

(352)-498-3222 17


R EC R E AT I O N A L G E A R

Recreational gear

Additional regional gear restrictions may apply in your county. For further clarification, contact the local regional offices listed on page 23.

Reef fish gear rules

(applies to species marked with ● on pages 10-11) ■■ Gulf of Mexico: These regulations require the use of a dehooking device when recreationally fishing for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. All persons aboard a vessel harvesting reef fish must possess and use nonstainless steel non-offset circle hooks when using natural baits. ■■ Atlantic Ocean: Recreational and commercial fishers are required to use dehooking devices as needed while fishing for reef fish. These rules apply to all members of the reef fish complex including groupers, snappers, amberjacks, red porgy, gray triggerfish, black sea bass, golden tilefish, banded rudderfish, speckled hind and others. For a complete species list, please visit MyFWC.com.

Hook-and-line gear

Hook-and-line anglers must tend their gear at all times to prevent people, marine life and shore life from becoming entangled in the line or injured by the hook. Also, it is against the law to intentionally discard any monofilament netting or line into or onto state waters. Monofilament line can entangle birds, marine mammals, marine turtles and fish, often injuring or killing them. Trot lines with 10 or fewer hooks are considered hook-and-line gear and must be tended at all times while deployed. Species identified with "T" on pages 10 through 13 cannot be harvested with multi-hooks (single hook with two or more points) in conjunction with natural baits.

18

Nets

The following types of nets may be used for recreational purposes in Florida waters: ■■ Bully nets (for lobster only) no greater than 3 feet in diameter and not made of monofilament. ■■ Frame nets and push nets (for shrimp only) no greater than 16 feet in perimeter and not made of monofilament. Frame nets cannot be used in state waters off Dade County. ■■ Hand-held landing or dip nets no greater than 96 inches in perimeter. ■■ Cast nets measuring 14 feet or less stretched length (stretched length is defined as the distance from the horn at the center of the net with the net gathered and pulled taut, to the lead line). ■■ Beach or haul seines measuring no larger than 500 square feet of mesh area, no larger than 2 inches stretched mesh size, not constructed of monofilament, and legibly marked at both ends with the harvester’s name and address if a Florida resident. Non-residents using beach or haul seines for recreational purposes are required to have a commercial saltwater products license and legibly mark the seine at both ends with the harvester’s saltwater products license number. ■■ Cast nets and seines may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Florida pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, weakfish and unregulated species (see p. 12). ■■ No more than two nets can be fished from any vessel and no more than one net can be fished by any person not on a vessel.

Explosives, etc.

The use of powerheads, explosives, chemicals or the discharge of firearms to kill or harvest marine life is prohibited in state waters.

Spearing

Spearing is a general term that includes bow fishing, gigging, spearfishing (underwater), or the use of any other device to capture a fish by piercing its body. Spearing does not include snagging or snatch hooking by hook and line. Marine species harvested by spearing are subject to the same recreational regulations (e.g., bag limits, size limits, and closed seasons) as those marine species that are harvested by any other type of recreationally-allowed gear. The following is a list of species or groups of species that are prohibited from harvest by all forms of spearing in state waters: ■■ A ll prohibited species (listed on p. 10-13) ■■ Billfish (all species) ■■ Bonefish ■■ Crab (blue, stone) ■■ Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) ■■ Goliath grouper ■■ Manta ray ■■ Nassau grouper ■■ Permit ■■ Pompano (Florida and African) ■■ Red drum ■■ Sharks (all species including dogfish) ■■ Snook ■■ Spotted eagle ray ■■ Spotted seatrout ■■ Sturgeon ■■ Tarpon ■■ Tripletail ■■ Weakfish ■■ Marine life species (listed on p. 14) * Volusia County — You may not harvest by spearing in Volusia County inland waters with the exception of flounder and sheepshead, and only by the use of a barbed spear with three or fewer prongs. * Special Local Laws also prohibit harvest by spearing in specific areas (Visit MyFWC.com/ Fishing and select "Saltwater," "Recreational Regulations," "Full Text Rule by Species" and "Local Laws.")


SPEARING Spearfishing

Spearfishing is a specific form of “spearing” defined as “the catching or taking of a fish through the instrumentality of a hand or mechanically propelled, single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed or barbless, operated by a person swimming at or below the surface of the water.” In addition to the harvest species limitations above, you may not spearfish: ■■ For any species that cannot be harvested by spearing (see Spearing above). ■■ For any species (freshwater or marine) in freshwater. Possession of spearfishing equipment in or on freshwater is also prohibited. ■■ Within the upper Keys no-spearfishing zone, which includes all state waters from the Miami-Dade County line down to and including Long Key. ■■ Within 100 yards of any designated public bathing beaches, commercial or public fishing piers, or portions of bridges where fishing is allowed. ■■ Within 100 feet of the unsubmerged portion of any jetty, except that spearing is allowed along the last 500 yards of any jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline. ■■ In or on any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Division of Recreation and Parks of the Department of Environmental Protection. Within these areas, the possession of spearfishing equipment is also prohibited except when such equipment is

un-loaded and is properly stored upon watercraft passing nonstop through the area. ■■ Within the no-take areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Visit: www.floridakeys.noaa.gov.) ■■ Within any area where spearfishing is prohibited by a Special Local Law (Visit MyFWC. com/Fishing and select "Saltwater," "Recreational Regulations," "Full Text Rule by Species" and "Local Laws.")

Powerheads, Bangsticks, Rebreathers Harvest with the use of powerheads, bangsticks or rebreathers is prohibited in state waters, except that rebreathers are allowed for the harvest of lionfish. Within state waters, powerheads and bangsticks can be used for personal protection only, and cannot be used to harvest any species.

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KNOW YOUR SHARKS

Know Your Common Florida Sharks

22

  June 1, 2019

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. 620 South Meridian Street Farris Bryant Building Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600 (850) 488-4676 (800) 955-8771 TDD

NORTHWEST



Commissioners

FWC regional offices

Robert A. Spottswood Chairman, Key West

Northwest Region 3911 Highway 2321 Panama City, FL 32409 850-265-3676

Michael W. Sole Vice Chairman, Tequesta Joshua Kellam Palm Beach Gardens Gary Lester Oxford Gary Nicklaus Jupiter Sonya Rood St. Augustine

Staff Eric Sutton Executive Director Dr. Thomas H. Eason Assistant Executive Director

The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement patrols Florida’s coastal waters to provide assistance to boaters and anglers as well as to enforce Florida’s saltwater fishing and boating laws. FWC officers assist boaters who are in distress, provide advice and direction to those who

 Gilchrist

NORTH CENTRAL



North Central Region 3377 East U.S. Highway 90 Lake City, FL 32055 386-758-0525



Northeast Region 1239 Southwest 10th Street Ocala, FL 34471 352-732-1225

SOUTHWEST



Southwest Region 3900 Drane Field Road Lakeland, FL 33811 863-648-3200 South Region 8535 Northlake Blvd. West Palm Beach, FL 33412 561-625-5122

The regions presented on this map are not fisheries management zones. For management zones, please see pages 6-7.

are traveling Florida’s coastline and waterways, and may issue citations for violations of state and federal fishing, wildlife and boating laws. In emergencies or if state fisheries, wildlife or boating laws are being violated, call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or for cell phone users

Resource Information Join the nation’s largest conservation law enforcement agency—become an FWC law enforcement officer. For more information contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-866-FWC-HIRE (392-4473) or visit MyFWC.com/Law • To purchase fishing licenses: 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356) GoOutdoorsFlorida.com

• To report sawfish sightings: 941-255-7403 sawfish@MyFWC.com

• FWC Division of Law Enforcement 888-404-FWCC (3922)

• Bird entanglement 888-404-3922 727-391-6211 for Tampa area

• To report fish and wildlife law violations, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922) • FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 727-896-8626 MyFWC.com/Research

NORTHEAST

SOUTH

throughout the state, dial *FWC (*392) depending on your location, hail on VHF Channel 16 or report violations via text message. Most cell phones allow users to send text messages directly to an email address. You can text Tip@MyFWC.com; standard usage fees may apply.

At the FWC, it pays to love the outdoors!

• Red tide information hotline 866-300-9399 toll free in Florida 727-552-2488 nationwide • Aquatic toxins hotline: 888-232-8635

• To report fish kills: 800-636-0511

• Shellfish harvesting questions FDACS, 850-488-5471 www.floridaaquaculture.com

• To report fish tags: 800-367-4461 TagReturn@MyFWC.com

• To report lionfish sightings: 1-877-786-7267 MyFWC.com/Lionfish

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Visit MyFWC.com to learn how to become an FWC officer. LE_RecruitingAd_SaltWaterReg9c.indd 1

5/13/15 8:23 AM

June 1, 2019 

23


LICENSES AND PERMITS Florida resident saltwater licenses

Florida resident combination licenses

Saltwater licenses cover both watercraft and shoreline fishing.

Annual Saltwater and Freshwater Fishing

$32.50

Annual Saltwater and Freshwater Fishing and Hunting

$48.00

Annual Saltwater License

$17.00

Youth Saltwater Fishing License — valid until 17th birthday

$17.00

Gold Sportsman’s Licenses

Five-Year Saltwater License

$79.00

Annual Saltwater Shoreline License

$0.00

Includes Saltwater and Freshwater Fishing and Hunting licenses and Snook, Spiny Lobster, Management Area, Archery, Crossbow, Muzzleloading, Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl permits.

Covers saltwater fishing only from shorelines and attached structures accessible by foot. Does not cover fishing from a watercraft, fishing from a shoreline reached by watercraft, or fishing while swimming or diving.

Non-resident saltwater licenses

Annual Gold Sportsman’s License

$100.00

Five-Year Gold Sportsman’s License

$494.00

Youth Gold Sportsman’s License — valid until 17th birthday

$100.00 $20.00

Three-day S al t w ate r License

$17.00

Annual Military Gold Sportsman’s License

Seven-day License

$30.00

Annual License

$47.00

Annual Snook Permit

$10.00

Includes the same licenses and permits as the Gold Sportsman’s License. Available for Florida residents who are active duty or retired military members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Armed Forces Reserve, Florida National Guard, Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve at county tax collectors’ offices with current military identification card or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com through an online verification process.

Five-Year Snook Permit (Florida residents only)

$50.00

Florida Resident Lifetime Saltwater Fishing licenses

Annual Spiny Lobster Permit

$5.00

Includes Saltwater Fishing license and Snook and Spiny Lobster permits

Five-Year Spiny Lobster Permit (Florida residents only)

$25.00

Age: 0–4

$126.50

$51.50

Age: 5–12

$226.50

Unless exempt from license requirements, permits are necessary for the take of Snook and Spiny Lobster. Tarpon tags required to land tarpon.

Age: 13 or older

$301.50

Information for additional saltwater permits and designations

Saltwater permits – residents and non-residents

Tarpon Tag (available only at tax collector offices)

Florida Resident Lifetime Gold Sportsman’s licenses

Gulf Reef Fish Angler Designation – for anglers fishing for reef fish in Gulf state waters. No exemptions except youth under age 16.

$0.00

Includes Saltwater and Freshwater Fishing and Hunting licenses and Snook, Spiny Lobster, Management Area, Archery, Crossbow, Muzzleloading, Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl permits.

NEW! Annual Shore-Based Shark Fishing Permit – see page 17

$0.00

Age: 0–4

$401.50

NEW! Annual Blue Crab Trap Registration – see page 5

$0.00

Age: 5–12

$701.50

NEW! Annual Stone Crab Trap Registration – see page 5

$0.00

Age: 13 or older

$1,001.50

These new no-cost permits are available online only at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Youth under age 16 are exempt. No other exemptions apply.

Saltwater fishing in Florida – what to know before you go:

Saltwater fishing licenses can be obtained online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, at county tax collectors’ offices and license agents, or by calling toll-free 888-FISH-FLORIDA (3474356). All sales are final. Handling fees apply for telephone and Internet sales. For more information on recreational licensing information, visit MyFWC.com/License.

For purposes of saltwater fishing in Florida, a resident is defined as:

■■ Any person who has declared Florida as his or her only state of residence as evidenced by a valid Florida driver license or identification card with both a Florida address and a Florida residency verified by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (HSMV). A Florida voter registration card, declaration of domicile, or homestead exemption may also be used as proof of Florida residency. ■■ Active duty United States military personnel stationed in Florida, including spouses and dependent children residing in the household, with military orders.

24

  June 1, 2019

Saltwater license exemptions:

■■ Youth under 16 years of age. ■■ Florida resident age 65 or older with proof of age and residency, such as a Florida driver’s license or identification card. ■■ Florida resident fishing within his or her county of residence with live or natural bait, using poles or lines not equipped with a fishing line retrieval mechanism. ■■ Florida Resident Persons with Disabilities Hunting and Fishing License holder. Information at MyFWC.com/ADA. ■■ Florida resident accepted as a client for developmental disabilities services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, with agency proof thereof. ■■ Florida resident saltwater fishing from land or a structure fixed to land who has been determined eligible for the food stamp, temporary cash assistance, or Medicaid Program by the Department of Children and Family Services. Must have proof of identification and a benefit issuance or program identification card issued by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities or the Agency for Health Care when fishing. ■■ U.S. Armed Forces members who is a Florida resident not stationed in the state but home on leave with orders for 30 days or less. Does not include family members. ■■ Individual commercial saltwater products license holders.

■■ Those recreationally fishing from a pier that has a pier saltwater fishing license. ■■ Fishing from a for-hire vessel (including guide, charter, party boat) that has a valid charter boat or charter captain license. ■■ Fishing from a boat that has a recreational vessel fishing license. ■■ A Florida resident who is fishing for mullet in freshwater with a valid Florida freshwater fishing license.

More saltwater fishing licenses – available at Tax Collectors’ office:

Charter Boat and Charter Captain licenses are available and required to carry paying customers (where a fee is paid directly or indirectly) to take, attempt to take, or possess saltwater fish or organisms. Guides must comply with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requirements. ■■ Four or fewer customers ����������������� $201.50 ■■ Five to ten customers ���������������������� $401.50 ■■ Eleven or more customers �������������� $801.50 Recreational Vessel licenses are available for not-for-hire pleasure crafts that are registered recreationally for a fee of $2,001.50. Pier licenses are available for $501.50 annually and exempt persons fishing from a pier fixed to land from saltwater fishing requirements.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


LICENSES

Fishing license requirements and fees

License, permit, and issuance fees and exemptions are established by the Legislature. In addition to the cost of licenses and permits specified in this section, license agents charge issuance fees for selling licenses and permits. For up-to-date license information, visit MyFWC.com/License. Anglers may use credit cards to purchase licenses and permits 24 hours a day at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or by calling toll-free 888-FISHFLORIDA (347-4356). This enables anglers to obtain and use licenses immediately. Handling fees will apply on all Internet and telephone sales. License sales are nonrefundable. Licensing requirements follow the species of fish you are fishing for, regardless of where you are fishing. Please see the “Frequently answered questions” on page 27 for more information. For fishing license exemptions, please see page 12, but remember anyone can buy a license to contribute to conservation.

Resident Freshwater Fishing Licenses For purposes of fishing in Florida, a “resident” is defined as any person who has declared Florida as his or her only state of residence as evidenced by a valid Florida driver license or identification card with both a Florida address and a Florida residency verified by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (HSMV). If the person does not have a Florida driver license or identification card on record with HSMV, a Florida voter information card, declaration of domicile, or homestead exemption may be used as proof of Florida residency. Active military personnel stationed in Florida, including their spouses and dependent children residing in the household, are considered residents when purchasing fishing licenses. Freshwater Fishing (valid 12 months from specified start date)

$17.00

Youth Freshwater Fishing (optional for children under the age of 16 and valid until 17th birthday—a fishing license is not required until age 16)

$17.00

BEST 5-Year Freshwater Fishing BUY (valid 5 years from specified start date)

$79.00 $32.50

Freshwater/Saltwater Fishing Combo (valid 12 months from specified start date) Freshwater Fishing/Hunting Combo (valid 12 months from specified start date)

$32.50

Freshwater/Saltwater Fishing/Hunting Combo (valid 12 months from specified start date)

$48.00

Resident 64+ Silver Sportsman's License includes Freshwater Fishing and Hunting licenses; and Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Muzzleloading Gun, Crossbow, Deer, Turkey and Florida Waterfowl permits

$13.50

(valid 12 months from specified start date) Resident 64+ Silver Sportsman's License includes Freshwater Fishing and Hunting licenses; and Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Muzzleloading Gun, Crossbow, Deer, Turkey and Florida Waterfowl permits

$67.50

(valid five years from specified start date) Sportsman's License includes Freshwater Fishing and Hunting licenses; and Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Muzzleloading Gun, Crossbow, Deer, Turkey and Florida Waterfowl permits

$80.50

(valid 12 months from specified start date) Gold Sportsman's License includes Hunting, Saltwater Fishing and Freshwater Fishing licenses; and Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Muzzleloading Gun, Crossbow, Deer, Turkey, Florida Waterfowl, Snook and Lobster permits

$100.00

(valid 12 months from specified start date) Youth Gold Sportsman’s License (optional for children under the age of 16 and valid until 17th birthday—a fishing license is not required until age 16—hunter safety certificate required— includes same licenses and permits as Gold Sportsman’s License)

$100.00

Military Gold Sportsman's License includes same licenses and permits as Gold Sportsman’s License Available at county tax collectors’ offices with current military identification card for Florida residents who are active duty or fully retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Armed Forces Reserve, Florida National Guard, Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve. Fully retired veterans may renew online. (valid 12 months from specified start date)

$20.00

5-Year Gold Sportsman’s License (includes Freshwater Fishing, Hunting and Saltwater Fishing licenses; and Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Muzzleloading Gun, Crossbow, Deer, Turkey, Florida Waterfowl, Snook and Lobster permits)

$494.00

Nonresident Freshwater Fishing Licenses $47.00

Freshwater Fishing (valid 12 months from specified start date) 3-Day Freshwater Fishing (valid 3 consecutive days from specified start date)

$17.00

7-Day Freshwater Fishing (valid 7 consecutive days from specified start date)

$30.00

Lifetime Licenses (For Florida Residents Only) Lifetime licenses are available to Florida residents only. Funds generated from sales of these licenses are invested, creating an endowment to support long-term conservation of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. Costs of lifetime licenses are less than what would be spent on annual licenses, permits and fees, and are valid in Florida even if you move out of state.

LIFETIME SPORTSMAN'S LICENSE (includes Hunting, Freshwater Fishing and Saltwater Fishing licenses; Deer, Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Turkey, Muzzleloading Gun, Crossbow, Florida Waterfowl, Snook and Lobster permits) 4 years or younger 5-12 years 13 years and older

$401.50 $701.50 $1,001.50

LIFETIME FRESHWATER FISHING LICENSE

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4 years or younger

$126.50

5-12 years

$226.50

13 years or older

$301.50

 2019–2020

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


F E D E R A L A ID IN SP O R T F ISH R E S TO R AT I O N

Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration — A legacy of success How often do you see people or businesses wanting to be taxed and happy about it? In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. This Act has been key to implementing the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (see MyFWC. com). Between 1941 and 1950, sport-fishing businesses paid a federal excise tax that was deposited in the general treasury of the United States but did not directly benefit manufacturers or anglers. In 1950, sportsmen and businesses teamed with conservationminded policy makers to redirect these existing federal excise taxes to the Restoration Program (aka: SFR, Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux).

fishing participation, and angler purchases of excise-tax related products for a 2011 report to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The report found that excise-tax related return-oninvestment ranged from 1,585 percent in 1970 to 2,643 percent in 1980. In Florida, SFR provides millions of dollars to support boating access and freshwater and saltwater fisheries conservation. In freshwater fisheries, the FWC uses this money to improve fisheries habitat, stock fish, conduct research and manage fish populations. We also conduct aquatic education programs and provide valuable fishing and conservation tips to anglers.

The concept was to restore sportfish populations and improve public access, so more people can enjoy fishing and so fishing sales would increase. Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) came about as a result of anglers wanting to see more money directed toward restoring the nation’s recreational fisheries, and ensuring better fishing opportunities for themselves and future generations. It has been the best thing for anglers since fishing reels were invented. Today, SFR uses a small excise tax on fishing reels and other fishing tackle, as well as a motor boat fuel tax, to fund sport fish restoration and boating access programs. These excise taxes are collected by the Department of Interior and each state reports annually on the number of unique license anglers. Along with land mass, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then calculates each state’s eligible allotment and is responsible for coordinating on SFR funding to each state. It is working. There are now at least 77 percent more anglers than in 1950. Purchases of tax-related items by anglers have increased by nearly 200 percent in dollars (adjusted for the consumer-price index) since 1955. Anglers and fishing businesses want to know the benefits they receive in return. To help answer this, Andrew Loftus Consulting and Southwick Associates analyzed data on excise taxes invested,

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F R E SH WAT E R F ISHIN G T IP S F R O M T H E PR O S

Fishing Basics and Basic Hook Selection for Bass Fishing Thomas Wright, Teen Sportfishing angler Making sure that you select the right hook for your setup and the cover you are fishing will make a huge difference in your success rate. You want to match your hook to your line, rod and the cover you are fishing as well as your plastic baits. For example, you don’t want braid matched with a light wire hook while fishing in heavy cover, because the result will usually be a hook that will straighten on the hookset. There are multiple styles of hooks and sizes to choose from — round bend, EWG, light wire, heavy wire, straight, and offset. This can sound confusing but it’s not that bad — we will make it simple. To get started in bass fishing, a good allaround hook is a 4/0 or 5/0 EWG (extra wide gap) heavy wire hook. This will work with just about any plastic worm, fluke, paddletail swimbait and soft body frog or other plastic bait of your choice. Keeping things simple will make your time fishing more enjoyable instead of over-thinking

things and worrying about packing so much terminal tackle next time you go fishing. So let’s talk about basic rigging with your hook. There are lots of ways to rig your baits: Texas rig, Carolina rig, Wacky rig, Neko rig and so on. A good simple method is a Texas rig. Just add a 1/8 - 1/4 oz. worm weight and put your plastic on to start fishing. There are plenty of videos online to explain the different ways to rig soft plastics, and the Texas rig is one of the simplest and easiest. Depending on type of cover and time of year, you can work any plastic lure slowly or “burn” it quickly to make those fish bite. Remember to have fun and keep it simple to get started, and you will have more time to fish and enjoy your time on the water. Keep a tight line and good luck on your next fishing trip!

Frog Fishing for Bass Dave Sampson, Bassmaster Open Series pro, Bass Pro Shops ProStaff, and fishing guide at GoneFishinWithDave.com Being born and raised in south Florida, I’ve had the opportunity to fish for trophy bass from Lake Okeechobee to my home lake of Istokpoga. I have fished lakes and canals and have learned many different techniques, but still always find myself going back to my old faithful: frog fishing! Regardless of temperature and weather, the frog can be very productive. At any given time I have three rods set up with

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 2019–2020

different frogs. My first is a floating hollow body frog on a 7’ medium-heavy rod with 30-pound braid. I like a natural color, or a darker brown for bright sunny days. I’ll throw this around water edges, varieties of cover and open water. I retrieve it slowly with small jerks, allowing it to sit for a few seconds in between each motion. When a bass strikes allow a two-second count before setting the hook—it seems like an eternity but it’s necessary. The next two rods will be rigged with a “swimming frog”. Both will be hooked weightless on a 7’ medium-heavy rod. One rod with 30-pound braid works for areas with moderate to no cover, and I retrieve changing my cadence and speed between casts. The other rod with 50-pound braid allows me to attack those areas with very thick cover and gives me the confidence that I’ll be able to reel in that bass! It’s time now for you to go after your trophy!

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Tips from the Pros Current Fishing in Florida Mike Surman, FLW Pro Angler Florida has an incredible number of lakes and canals. May through October is generally our “rainy” season and the water levels can get very high. However, we also deal with drought situations where the levels are low. Water flows between these two extremes and during these specific times you can use this information to catch the trophy fish of a lifetime! Largemouth bass are ambush feeders and often when the water is flowing it can create a fishing bonanza. Largemouth bass love to sit on mussel bars, current breaks, and weed edges and let their food come to them. My favorite technique is cranking a Yo-Zuri Square-Lip crankbait or Rattl'n Vibe Crankbait. I use a medium-heavy 6’10” rod and 20-pound fluorocarbon line. Cast up into the current and work your bait back with the flow. Usually there will be a specific spot where the bass will be sitting, in front of or behind the mussel bed or current break. It can be a stick, reed, rock, or even a large clump of mussels, that creates the key spot. I have caught a fish on every cast for over an hour, once I found the magic spot. When I find the exact location of a school, I try to Power Pole down, and make the same exact cast. This current fishing can be fast and furious—be prepared as you never know when that trophy will strike!

Shiners for Trophy Bass Capt. Kenneth Walker, professional guide for Bassonline.com Florida has some of the biggest bass in the nation, and FWC’s TrophyCatch program (TrophyCatch.com) rewards anglers for documenting and releasing these fish. A high percentage of these trophy bass are caught on live bait, and the wild shiner is the top choice year ‘round. My preferred technique includes a strong baitcast reel or stout spinning reel, medium-heavy or heavy fast-action Fitzgerald Rod, and Spiderwire 30-pound braid. I like a peg style oval float, Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Kahle 3/0 hook, and Florida wild shiners 6-12 inches long. Now you’re ready to fish for big bass! Hook the shiner through the nose and cast it to the edge of floating vegetation or into open water and let it start swimming. It’s extremely important to leave your reel out-of-gear, so the bass can swim away with your bait. When the cork goes under the water and stays down, allow the line to keep going out and start counting slowly to “10”. When you reach 10, put your rod tip down near the water and start reeling as fast as possible. Reel until the reel almost stops or you feel a heavy weight on the line, then jerk the rod upward as hard as possible, and keep reeling until your bass is beside the boat. A big net for landing the bass is a must. If the bass is 8 pounds or larger, weigh it and take a good photo of the entire fish on the scale with the weight clearly readable for submission to TrophyCatch, before releasing the fish. Make memories and tight lines!

Note: Neither the FWC nor the State of Florida endorse any individual company or product.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

2019–2020 

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ME T H O D S O F TA K IN G F ISH

Game and nongame freshwater fish

Nongame Fish: all freshwater fish are defined as nongame fish, except grass carp and fish defined as freshwater game fish. Note: Alligator gar require a Scientific Collectors Permit to take.

and minnow traps not more than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter, with a funnel entrance not more than 1 inch in spread. *NOTE: Statutory provisions (790.052(3), F.S.) made it lawful for persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes including fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition. Consequently, although firearms may not be used to take fish, they can be in possession of someone with legally taken fish.

Methods of taking freshwater fish

Nongame fish may be taken:

Game Fish: black bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, mud sunfish, longear sunfish, shadow bass, peacock bass, white bass, striped bass and sunshine bass.

Game fish may only be taken with pole-andline or rod-and-reel. There is no limit on the number of rods an angler may use. Freshwater fish may not be taken by use of any free-floating, unattached device, or by taking of fish or wildlife with firearms, explosives, electricity, spear gun, poison or other chemicals. The taking of fish by underwater swimming or diving is prohibited. It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale or transport out of the state any freshwater game fish unless specifically permitted by the FWC, except that licensed anglers may transport two days’ bag limit of legally harvested game fish. It is illegal to possess any freshwater fish along with gear that cannot legally be used to take freshwater fish, including gear types listed above and below for taking nongame fish or bait. An exception is game fish may be possessed together with cast nets having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch; minnow dip nets not more than 4 feet in diameter; minnow seines having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch, a length not more than 20 feet and a depth not more than 4 feet;

■■ With pole-and-line, or rod-and-reel, and by bush hook, setline or trotline baited with cut bait or other substance; but not including live game fish or any part of any game fish; bush hooks, setlines or trotlines (limited to 25 hooks total) are permitted for taking nongame fish for personal use, but only in those areas where trotlines may be lawfully used in accordance with the Wildlife Code of the State of Florida. Refer to the “Commercial Freshwater Fisheries Rules and Regulations Summary.” Bush hooks, setlines and trotlines must be clearly and legibly marked with the harvester’s name and address while being used or possessed in or upon the waters of the state. ■■ At night by bow and arrow, and gigs. ■■ During daylight hours by manually operated spears, gigs, snatch hooks, crossbow or bow and arrow from a boat or from shore except at the spillways of the Eureka and Rodman dams on the Oklawaha River or on the spillway of the Jim Woodruff Dam on the Apalachicola River or in Miami-Dade County canals south of the C-4 and east of the L-31N and L-31W canals inclusively.

■■ By the use of cast nets in the South and Northeast regions, in Citrus County, and in the Southwest Region, except that possession or use of cast nets in waters adjoining Saddle Creek Fish Management Area, Polk County, confined by Morgan Combee Road, U.S. Highway 92 and Fish Hatchery Road are prohibited. ■■ Using a bow and light at night. Night bowfishing tournaments do not require a permit in the Northwest Region. ■■ By netting and impounding at night from Sept. 1 to May 1 in specified waters of Northwest Florida. Nets used to take nongame fish (typically suckers) in these specified waters must be less than 100 feet in length, have a minimum 3-inch stretched mesh and shall be continuously attended to ensure immediate release of any trapped game fish. Contact the Northwest Regional office for details (page 6). ■■ For personal use by any person possessing a valid freshwater fishing license by the use of not more than one slat basket or one wire trap, made as specified in Rule 68A-23.003, FAC, and used only in those waters where use of wire traps or slat baskets is permitted for commercial purposes. Refer to the “Commercial Freshwater Fisheries Rules and Regulation Summary.” Passive fishing gear such as slat baskets or wire baskets must be clearly and legibly marked with the harvester’s name and address while being used or possessed in or upon waters of the state.

Prohibited gear for taking marine species in freshwater

■■ Spearfishing: Use of any hand or mechanically propelled, single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed or barbless, to harvest

License Exemptions: You do not need a freshwater fishing license if... • You are a child under 16 years of age. • You are a Florida resident 65 years of age or older and you possess proof of age and residency, such as a Florida driver’s license or ID, or an optional no-cost Resident 65+ Hunting and Fishing Certificate. • You are a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishingline-retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county. However, you must have a valid fishing license to fish by any method in a fish management area. This is often referred to as the cane-pole exemption. • You are fishing in the St. Mary’s River or Lake Seminole (but not including tributary creeks in Florida) and have a valid Georgia fishing license.

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 2019–2020

• You freshwater fish in your county of residence on your homestead or the homestead of your spouse or minor child, or if you are a minor child hunting or freshwater fishing on the homestead of your parent. •

You are a Florida resident certified as totally and permanently disabled and you possess a Florida Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing Certificate.

• You are a resident who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, you are not stationed in this state, and you are home on leave for 30 days or less, upon submission of orders. • You have been accepted as a client for developmental disabilities services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The agency must furnish proof to such clients.

• You possess a Resident Freshwater Commercial Fishing License. • You are freshwater fishing on License-Free Freshwater Fishing Days: first weekend in April (April 4-5, 2020) and the second weekend in June (June 13-14, 2020). A fish pond is a man-made pond constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, entirely within the property lines of the owner and with no surface water connection to public waters. • You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or less that is located entirely within the private property of its owner. • You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or more, whose owner has purchased a fish pond license at a fee of $3 per surface acre.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


or attempt to harvest any marine species while diving in freshwater is prohibited. ■■ Spearfishing for mullet in fresh water is prohibited; however, gigging from above water is permitted.

Methods of taking bait

Freshwater shrimp and golden shiners of any size, or other freshwater nongame fish, including catfish, less than 8-inches total length may be taken for bait by the following methods, unless specifically prohibited: ■■ Cast nets having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch in fresh waters of the state, unless specifically prohibited.

■■ Minnow dip nets not more than 4 feet in diameter. ■■ Minnow seines having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch, a length not more than 20 feet, and a depth not more than 4 feet. ■■ Minnow traps not more than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter, with a funnel entrance not more than 1 inch in spread. ■■ Any game fish taken by these methods must be released immediately. ■■ Taking of bait for the purpose of sale requires a commercial fishing license.

Taking and possession of freshwater mussels

Use of fish for bait

■■ Black bass, peacock bass or any part thereof may not be used as bait. ■■ No live nonnative fish, except variable platys and fathead minnows, may be transported to or between waters for use as bait. Live goldfish and carp may not be used as bait. ■■ Whole pickerel or panfish (e.g., bluegill, redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, warmouth) or parts thereof may be used as bait for sportfishing by the angler who caught them. Whole pickerel or bream or parts thereof may not be used as bait for trotlines or bush hooks or any method other than by rod and reel or pole and line. ■■ Panfish less than 4 inches in total length raised by a licensed aquaculture facility may be purchased and used for bait.

Restricted species Certain families of freshwater mussels may be collected for personal use. The bag limit for freshwater mussels from these families is 10 per person (or 20 half shells). The possession limit is two days bag limit (see images to right and FAQ, page 27). Mussels shall be taken by hand-picking only. Use of brailles, crowfoot bars, or other mechanical methods is prohibited. Freshwater mussels, live or dead, may not be taken for later sale.

Sizes indicated are average adult dimensions for identification purposes only.

3 inches Florida Shiny Spike

3½ inches Paper Pondshell

Other clams Species of freshwater mussels from other families, such as the Asian clam, have no bag or possession limits.

Live specimens of Conditional (68-5.002(1), F.A.C.) and Prohibited (68-5.003(1), F.A.C.) nonnative species may not be possessed. Northern black bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) are on the conditional nonnative species list. Stocking northern black bass is prohibited. Pure Florida bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) may only be purchased from permitted hatcheries with pure Florida bass stocks authenticated by the FWC. For more information, contact the nearest regional office (page 6). See Chapter 68-5, F.A.C. at www.FLrules.org for details.

1½ inches

Protected Sturgeons The species of sturgeon found in Florida—Atlantic (Acipenser oxyrinchus), Gulf (A. o. desotoi), and shortnose sturgeons (Acipenser brevirostrum)—are protected both federally and in the state of Florida. No person shall take, possess or sell any sturgeon or parts thereof, or their nests or eggs, except as allowed by specific federal or state permit or authorization. People who inadvertently catch one must immediately release it alive back to the water.

Win a $100 Gift Card! Take the monthly

It is illegal to possess alligator gar without a permit. It is illegal to possess alligator gar without a Scientific Collectors Permit. Alligator gar are an endemic top predator found only in the panhandle rivers and grow to more than 120 pounds. Due to limited numbers, harvest is restricted. Their gator-like snout is distinctly different than spotted and longnose gar, the two other species of gar found in the panhandle.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

And be entered to win a $100 gift certificate to your sporting good retailer of choice. Your anonymous participation advances fish and wildlife conservation, helps protect your right to hunt, fish and shoot, and guides companies in developing better outdoor products. 2019–2020 

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BAG & LENGTH LIMITS

Statewide bag and length limits Special bag and length limits apply to some lakes, rivers (this page) and Fish Management Areas (pages 21–26). Other fishes considered to be nongame fishes have no bag or possession limits, except as noted in individual Fish Management Area regulations. No person shall take in any one day more than the following bag limits of freshwater game fish: ■■ 5 Black bass (including largemouth, Suwannee, spotted, Choctaw and shoal bass, individually or in total), only one of which may be 16 inches or longer in total length. There is no minimum length limit for largemouth bass. »» No person shall kill or possess any Suwannee, shoal, spotted, or Choctaw bass that is less than 12 inches in total length. »» Chipola River: No person shall kill or possess any shoal bass in the section between Peacock Bridge (Peacock Bridge Road; County Road 278, Jackson County) and Johnny Boy Landing (Johnny Boy Landing Road, Calhoun County). ■■ 50 Panfish including bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), flier, longear sunfish, mud sunfish, shadow bass, spotted sunfish (stumpknocker), warmouth and redbreast sunfish, individually or in total. ■■ 25 Crappie (speckled perch). ■■ 20 Striped bass, white bass, and sunshine bass (individually or in total), of which only 6 may be 24 inches or longer in total length. »» In the Suwannee River, areas north and west

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of the Suwannee River, and in any tributary, creek or stream of the Suwannee River: the bag limit for striped bass is 3, each of which must be at least 18 inches in total length (20 fish combined bag limit)(See map page 20). ■■ 2 Butterfly peacock bass, only one of which may be 17 inches or longer in total length. ■■ 25 American eels, must be nine inches or greater in total length. The recreational bag limit for American eels is 25 per angler per day. Wholesale/Retail purchase exemption. Recreational anglers purchasing American eel as bait may possess more than the legal bag limit provided that the eels were purchased from a licensed dealer.

are in compliance with TrophyCatch rules and fish handling guidelines, may be in temporary possession of one bass 13 pounds or greater over the legal length limit and bag limit while waiting for FWC staff certification. The fish must then be live-released in the water body where it was caught. ■■ Keep game fish intact: black bass, striped bass and white bass or their hybrids, peacock bass, or black crappie and panfish (for black crappie and panfish, only in waters where minimum-length or slot-size limits for these fish apply) may not be filleted, nor their head or tail fin removed, until the angler has completed fishing for the day.

Notes: ■■ No person shall have in his possession more than two days’ bag limit of freshwater game fish (see Rule 68A-23.005 for details). ■■ Each angler is responsible for his or her own bag limit. It is illegal to transport or possess more than two days’ bag limit of fish per licensed angler without a commercial license. Exceptions are fish legally acquired from aquaculturists (fish farmers) for use in aquaria, for brood stock, pond stocking, or properly marked for the market. ■■ No native freshwater fish or their eggs may be taken or possessed except as permitted by these rules nor shall anyone wantonly or willfully waste the same. ■■ It is illegal to possess grass carp or alligator gar without a permit; these fish must be released immediately (see page 13). ■■ Anglers participating in TrophyCatch, who

Special bag and length limits See Fish Management Area regulations for bag and length limits for lakes in the Fish Management Area system (Pages 21–26). ■■ Jim Woodruff Reservoir, Lake Seminole. In the waters of and on the banks of the waters of Lake Seminole — bounded on the west by Florida State Road No. 271, on the south by the Jim Woodruff Dam, on the east by a line immediately east of the Chattahoochee Marina, also known as the Booster Club, running northwest across the lake to the tip of land at the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, west of Spring Creek; and on the north by the Herman Talmadge Bridge across the Chattahoochee River: 10 black bass, each


must be 12 inches or greater in total length; 15 striped bass, white bass and sunshine bass (individually or in total), of which no more than two may be 22 inches or longer in total length; 30 crappie (speckled perch); 50 panfish (does not include crappie); 15 pickerel (chain, grass and redfin). Possession limit is 50 fish total, regardless of species. ■■ St. Marys River and its tributaries: 10 black bass, each must be 12 inches or greater in total length; two striped bass, sunshine bass or white bass, both of which must be at least 22 inches in total length; 30 crappie (speckled perch); 50 panfish (does not include crappie); 15 pickerel (chain, grass and redfin). ■■ Lake Talquin, Leon and Gadsden counties (including that portion of the Ochlockonee River lying between Lake Talquin and the railroad trestle that is located immediately below U.S. Highway 90, that portion of the Little River lying between Lake Talquin and County Road 268, that portion of the Rocky Comfort Creek lying between Lake Talquin and County Road 65-B, and that portion of Bear Creek lying between Lake Talquin and Bear Creek Road, those portions of Ocklawaha and Hammock creeks lying between Lake Talquin and State Road 267, those portions of Blount's, Freeman [Stoutamire], and Harvey and Polk creeks lying between

Lake Talquin and State Road 20): Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Silver Glen Springs in Lake and Marion counties and Salt Springs in Marion County: Fishing is prohibited in and within 50 yards of the springs. ■■ Rainbow Springs, Marion County: Fishing is prohibited from the headwaters of Rainbow Springs to a point one mile downstream on Rainbow River within Marion County. ■■ Wildcat Lake, Marion County (Ocala National Forest): Black bass must be released immediately. ■■ St. Johns River Water Management Area (Farm 13, including the Stick Marsh), Indian River and Brevard counties: Black bass must be released immediately. ■■ S.N. Knight Tract, Indian River County (locally known as Kenansville Lake): Black bass must be released immediately. ■■ Lake Okeechobee: Crappie (speckled perch) less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. Lake Okeechobee, for purposes of these rules, is defined as any point lakeward of a boundary line delineated by the following points: »» Intersection of St. Rd. 78 and U.S. 441 »» U.S. 441 SE to St. Rd. 5 (“80”) »» St. Rd. 5 (“80”) to St. Rd. 25 (U.S. 27) »» St. Rd. 25 (U.S. 27) to St. Rd. 78 »» St. Rd. 78 to U.S. 441

Including: »» Harney Pond Canal (C-41) north of St. Rd. 78 to South Florida Water Mgmnt. District (SFWMD) structure S-71 »» C-41-A Canal, southeast of S-84 »» Indian Prairie Canal (C-40) north of St. Rd. 78 to SFWMD structure S-72 »» All of Taylor Creek and Nubbin Slough in Okeechobee County »» C-38/Kissimmee River south of SFWMD structure S-65E to St. Rd. 78 »» All of L-50 Canal in Glades County »» Fisheating Creek to U. S. 27 »» All of Sportsman’s Canal (LD-3) in Glades County ■■ Perdido River: 10 black bass; 15 striped bass, white bass and sunshine bass (only 5 of which may be 22 inches or longer in total length); 30 crappie (speckled perch, all of which must by 9 inches or longer); 50 panfish (does not include crappie, possession limit is 50 fish total, regardless of species). ■■ Lake Jackson (Walton County): 5 black bass (all of which must be 12 inches or greater in total length, only one of which may be longer than 22 inches in total length); 15 striped bass, white bass and sunshine bass (only 5 of which may be 22 inches or longer in total length); 30 crappie (speckled perch); 50 panfish (does not include crappie, possession limit is 50 fish total, regardless of species).

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15


F L O R IDA F R E SH WAT E R F ISH

BLACK BASS

Largemouth bass: SR 17.27 lbs; BC 24"/8.0 lbs

Spotted/Choctaw bass: SR 3.75 lbs; BC 16"/2.0 lbs

Shoal bass: SR 5.95 lbs; BC 16"/2.0 lbs

Suwannee Bass: SR 3.89 lbs; BC 14"/1.5 lbs

GAME FISH

PANFISH

Black crappie: SR 3.83 lbs; BC 14"/2.0 lbs

Flier: SR 1.35 lbs; BC 8"/0.5 lb

Bluegill: SR 2.95 lbs; BC 10"/1.0 lb

Redbreast sunfish: SR 2.08 lbs; BC 9"/0.5 lb

Redear sunfish: SR 4.86 lbs; BC 11"/1.25 lbs

Warmouth: SR 2.44 lbs; BC 9"/0.5 lb

Spotted sunfish: SR 0.83 lbs; BC 7"/0.5 lb

CICHLID

TEMPERATE BASS

Striped bass: SR 42.25 lbs; BC 30"/12.0 lbs

White bass: SR 4.69 lbs; BC 15"/2.5 lbs

Sunshine bass: SR 16.31 lbs; BC 20"/5.0 lbs

Butterfly peacock bass: SR 9.08 lbs; BC 18"/4.0 lbs

NONGAME FISH

CATFISH

Channel catfish: SR 44.50 lbs; BC 25"/12.0 lbs

White catfish: SR 18.88 lbs; BC 22"/5.0 lbs

Yellow bullhead: SR 5.05 lbs; BC 14"/1.5 lbs

Brown bullhead: SR 7.02 lbs; BC 16"/2.0 lbs

BOWFIN, SHAD, PICKEREL & GAR

Longnose gar: SR 41.00 lbs; BC 40"/15.0 lbs

American shad: SR 5.19 lbs; BC 18"/3.0 lbs Bowfin: SR 19.00 lbs; BC 28"/8.0 lbs

Chain pickerel: SR 6.96 lbs; BC 22"/3.0 lbs

Florida/Spotted gar: SR 9.44 lbs; BC 28"/4.0 lbs

For details on state records and angler recognition programs visit: MyFWC.com/BigCatch 16

 2019–2020

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fish art by Duane Raver, Jr.; and Diane R. Peebles.

Florida freshwater fishes are divided into game fish that have specific bag and length limits and may only be taken with pole-and-line or rodand-reel, and nongame fish, which are all others. A license is required to take nongame fish, but additional gear types are allowed (see Page 12). Nonnative fish are those that do not occur in Florida naturally; most should be harvested and never released. Exceptions are peacock bass, which is a game fish, and triploid grass carp, which are stocked for vegetation control (see Page 13). Where applicable, state record (SR) weights and the Big Catch (BC) qualifying length or weight for adults are provided. See Page 4 or MyFWC.com/BigCatch for more details including youth qualifying sizes, slams, specialist, master, elite angler and the TrophyCatch citizen-science rewards program.


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Flathead catfish: SR 63.80 lbs; BC 36"/25.0 lbs

Jaguar guapote: SR 2.78 lbs; BC 13"/1.5 lbs

Blue catfish: SR 69.50 lbs; BC 36"/25.0 lbs

Mayan cichlid: SR 2.37 lbs; BC 11"/1.0 lb

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Yellow perch: SR 1.47 lbs; BC 12"/0.75 lb

Common carp: SR Vacant - 35 lbs. to qualify; BC 30"/20.0 lbs

Blue tilapia: SR 9.57 lbs; BC 18"/5.0 lbs

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C O NSE R VAT I O N HI G HL I G H T S

Stakeholder Engagement Vital in the Creation of a Black Crappie Management Plan Few sights evoke the excitement of Florida fishing more than a johnboat bristling with cane poles and loaded with anglers stocking their coolers with tasty “specks”. The black crappie, also known as the “speckled perch,” is second only to largemouth bass among the Sunshine State’s freshwater anglers. These fish make the city of Okeechobee the self-proclaimed “Speckled Perch Capital of the World” and attract vacationing tourists during the peak winter fishing months. Whether you swear by Missouri minnows or prefer marabou jigs, this popular game fish seems custom-made for creating great fishing memories with your family and friends—and providing a great meal together afterward. In managing important Florida species such as black crappie, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) strives to involve folks who we call “stakeholders” in the process of developing management strategies for their local resource(s). Stakeholders are individuals or groups who are significantly affected by or who significantly affect wildlife or wildlife management decisions or actions. It

18

 2019–2020

is our belief that we cannot be truly successful in completing fisheries management projects without stakeholder input and support. Stakeholders played a significant role in our Black Bass Management Plan and recently, their feedback is being incorporated into our new Black Crappie Management Plan (BCMP). A goal of the BCMP is to use existing scientific information and stakeholder input in the development of priorities and strategies that maintain or enhance black crappie fisheries in Florida to meet the needs of current and future stakeholders. Stakeholder input during this process is extremely valuable to us, and we want folks to know that we truly take each suggestion into consideration and use their input to create a better management plan. We recognize that our stakeholders have just as much passion for Florida’s fisheries as we do, and we are always proud to work alongside such involved and invested stakeholders. Black crappie fisheries have highly variable spawning success and very dynamic populations, are typically harvest oriented, and have historically been managed to prevent

overfishing through harvest regulations (e.g., size and bag limits). But, beyond these harvest regulations, there has been relatively little directed management for this species in Florida when compared to largemouth bass. Therefore, the BCMP is being created by FWC staff from multiple divisions and offices, and with input from a wide range of stakeholders to provide the best direction for management and research for this popular game fish. The actions that the FWC will take to effectively manage black crappie fisheries throughout Florida include regulation review and consideration, collaborative habitat management, addressing research needs, engagement with stakeholders, and recruiting the next generation of “speck” anglers. These action items will be incorporated into FWC workplans to increase participation in black crappie fishing and expand Florida’s reputation for providing excellent black crappie fishing opportunities. The draft BCMP can be reviewed in full online at MyFWC.com/fishing/freshwater/ black-crappie/. The final copy of the BCMP will be available at the above link in the Fall of 2019.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

2019–2020 

19


F ISHIN G R EG UL AT I O NS

Striped bass map In the Suwannee River, areas north and west of the Suwannee River, and in any tributary, creek or stream of the Suwannee River: the bag limit for striped bass is 3, each of which must be at least 18 inches in total length (20 fish combined bag limit of striped bass, white bass, and sunshine bass, see page 14).

Help Protect Report fishing, boating or hunting law violations.

Call 888-404-FWCC (3922); on cell phones, dial *FWC or #FWC; or at MyFWC.com/WildlifeAlert. 20

 2019–2020

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


F M A R EG UL AT I O NS

Regulations for Fish Management Areas 1. A fishing license is required for residents from 16 to 64 years of age, and for nonresidents 16 or more years of age, to fish by any method, including cane poles, on a Fish Management Area. Refer to Fishing License Fees for exemptions (Pages 8 and 12). 2. The possession of fishing tackle is prohibited on any Fish Management Area that is closed to fishing. 3. Bag limits and methods of taking freshwater fish apply except as provided for a particular Fish Management Area. 4. The possession of nets (other than legal minnow seines, cast nets or dip nets), fish traps, trotlines or setlines is prohibited unless specifically authorized by rules established for a particular Fish Management Area. 5. Persons entering or leaving Fish Management Areas that have designated entry points shall enter or leave only at such designated points. 6. Any vehicle, boat or other transportation device may be searched while in, entering or leaving a Fish Management Area. 7. Fish Management Areas may be temporarily closed to accommodate management projects (e.g., drawdowns), or if unsafe conditions exist, or as otherwise specified in a specific Fish Management Area rule. 8. Intentional release of wildlife or freshwater fish on Fish Management Areas is prohibited.

Northwest Region

(see map on Page 6 for regions) Lake Stone, Escambia County: open to fishing. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers. Joe Budd Pond, Gadsden County: Closed to fishing, except as authorized by permit for Commission-sanctioned events (see MyFWC.com/Fishing for details). Open to fishing during daylight hours on Saturdays and Sundays during July, August and September or as specified by order of the Executive Director. ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Sunshine bass bag limit:������������������������10 ■■ Black bass bag limit�������������������������������� 1 ■■ Black bass less than 16 inches in total length must be released immediately. Lake Victor, Holmes County: open to fishing. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers.

Merritt’s Mill Pond, Jackson County: open to fishing. ■■ The taking of fish and wildlife with rifles is prohibited. ■■ Gigs are prohibited. ■■ Trotlines may be used. ■■ Redear sunfish (shellcracker) bag limit:��� 10 ■■ Redear sunfish less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Lake Piney Z, Leon County: open to fishing. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Watercraft shall be allowed only as authorized by the City of Tallahassee. ■■ Access is prohibited from sunset until sunrise. ■■ Use or possession of cast nets or minnow seines is prohibited. ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers. Hurricane Lake, Okaloosa County: open to fishing. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers. (Continued on Page 22)

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21


F M A R EG UL AT I O NS (Continued from Page 21) Karick Lake, Okaloosa County: Renovations are ongoing at Karick Lake. Contact the Northwest Regional Office for current status. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers. Bear Lake, Santa Rosa County: open to fishing. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ No motor vehicles on dams, spillways and fishing fingers. Juniper Bay Lake, Walton County: open to fishing. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6

North Central Region

(see map on Page 6 for regions) Lakes Lochloosa, Orange and Newnans, Alachua County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines having a gallon-sized plastic float at each end may be used, provided that such lines are sunk to the bottom or to a minimum depth of 4 feet. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Camp Blanding area, Clay County: Open to fishing. Magnolia and Lowry Lakes will be open to fishing on days and times determined by Camp Blanding Post Commander. Openings may be changed at discretion of Post Commander to accommodate military training. All anglers will be required to check into and out of area at a manned check station. ■■ Guns are prohibited for taking of fish or wildlife except during designated hunting seasons for Camp Blanding Wildlife Management Area. ■■ Boat launching permitted only at designated areas. ■■ Camping is prohibited. ■■ During periods closed to hunting, vehicles may be operated only on roads to designated access areas. ■■ Use of all-terrain vehicles is prohibited. ■■ All watercraft shall be operated at idle speed only. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6

Ronnie Vanzant Park, Clay County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Boats or any floating vessel apparatus are prohibited. ■■ No swimming or camping. ■■ No person 16 years of age or older shall fish unless accompanied by an angler less than 16 years of age. ■■ Fishing permitted only with hook and line or rod and reel. ■■ Nets are prohibited, except for dip nets. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Alligator Lake, Columbia County: open to fishing. ■■ Fishing is prohibited in Ponderosa Pond except for authorized groups permitted by FWC. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Montgomery Lake, Columbia County: open to fishing. ■■ Boats are restricted to idle speed—no wake. ■■ Crappie bag limit:���������������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Watertown Lake, Columbia County: open to fishing. ■■ Taking of fish or wildlife with firearms is prohibited. ■■ Watercraft shall be operated only at idle speed before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. daily. ■■ Crappie bag limit:���������������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Baymeadows, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms, possession of alcoholic beverages or use of cast nets is prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Bethesda Pond, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Crystal Springs Park, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ No person between the ages of 16 years and 64 years shall fish unless accompanied by an angler less than 16 years of age; by an angler

22

 2019–2020

65 years of age or older; by an angler who has been certified by the U.S. Veterans Administration, U.S. Social Security Administration, by any branch of the U.S. Armed Services, or by a licensed physician in this State to be totally and permanently disabled and has obtained a permanent license issued pursuant to Section 379.352(5), F.S.; or by an angler with proof of acceptance as a client for developmental services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Boats are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Hanna Park ponds, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Huguenot Pond, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Oceanway Pond, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Pope Duval East and West ponds, Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 St. Augustine Road ponds (North and South), Duval County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages, and use of cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Eagle Lake, Hamilton County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Swimming and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms are prohibited. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Lang Lake, Hamilton County: open to fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Taking of fish or wildlife with firearms is prohibited, except by written permission of the landowner. Koon Lake, Lafayette County: open to fishing. ■■ Taking of fish or wildlife with firearms is prohibited. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Suwannee Lake, Suwannee County: open to fishing. ■■ No camping. ■■ No motor vehicles on dam and fishing fingers. ■■ Taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. ■■ Access to the area from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise for any use other than fishing and launching and loading of boats is prohibited. ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish.

Northeast Region

(see map on Page 6 for regions) Fox Lake, Brevard County: open to fishing. ■■ No airboats for fishing or frogging. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. South Lake, Brevard County: open to fishing. ■■ No airboats for fishing or frogging. ■■ Trotlines may be used. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Pellicer Pond, Flagler County: open to fishing. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Lake Blue Cypress, Indian River County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Clermont Chain of Lakes, Lake County (Cook, Winona, Palatlakaha, Crescent, Louisa, Minnehaha, Hiawatha, Minneola, Wilson, Susan and Cherry): open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used from sunset until 9 a.m. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish.

Lake Griffin, Lake County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines are prohibited from 9 a.m. Friday until one hour before sunset on Sunday. ■■ Trotlines are also prohibited from 9 a.m. until one hour before sunset Monday through Thursday from May 1 through Oct. 31. ■■ No trotline may be secured to or fished within 50 yards of a private pier or dock. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Black crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. Bear Creek Park, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Clear Lake, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6

■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Black bass must be released immediately. Shadow Bay Park, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Bluegill bag limit:����������������������������������� 5 ■■ Bluegill less than 12 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 1 ■■ Channel catfish less than 30 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Black bass must be released immediately. Starke Lake, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets and minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. (Continued on Page 24)

Hal-Scott Lake, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Black bass must be released immediately. Lake Ivanhoe, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Cast nets are prohibited.

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Lake Lawne, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Lake Santiago in Demetree Park, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Boats are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. Lake Underhill, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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2019–2020 

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F M A R EG UL AT I O NS (Continued from Page 23) Turkey Lake, Orange County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Black bass must be released immediately. ■■ Except for sanctioned events, gasoline motors may not be used on boats. East Lake Tohopekaliga, Osceola County: open to fishing. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Nongame fish may be taken by castnets, dip nets, seines, trotlines, set lines, bush hooks, and traps as specified in Rules 68A-23.002, 68A-23.003 and 68A-23.004, F.A.C. Lake Jackson, Osceola County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets, minnow lift nets and minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Black bass must be released immediately. ■■ Crappie less than 12 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Lake Marian, Osceola County: open to fishing. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Minnow lift nets, fish traps and trotlines may be used. Lakes Tohopekaliga (West Lake Tohopekaliga), Cypress, Hatchineha, and Kissimmee, Osceola and Polk counties: open to fishing. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Nongame fish may be taken by castnets, dip nets, seines, trotlines, set lines, bush hooks, and traps as specified in Rules 68A-23.002, 68A-23.003 and 68A-23.004, F.A.C.

Secret Lake, Seminole County: open to fishing. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Personal watercraft are prohibited. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Lake Panasoffkee, Sumter County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Lake Dias, Volusia County: open to fishing. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish.

Southwest Region

(see map on Page 6 for regions) Marl Pits 1 and 3, Charlotte County: open to fishing. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Marl Pit 2, Charlotte County: open to fishing. ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 10 inches must be released immediately. ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish combined bag limit:��������������������������������������������������� 10 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Webb Lake, Charlotte County: open to fishing during posted hours. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately.

Summer Fishing Camps for Youth The FWC is combating the tendency for today’s youth to disconnect from nature and the outdoors, through the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN). This initiative is providing “Fishing and Basic Boating Skills Camps” (Fish Camps) throughout the state. Fish Camps, for youth ages 9–15, combine teaching and practical application of angling and boating skills. An instructor provides a fish identification and anatomy lesson, and a law enforcement officer conducts a boating safety demonstration. The goal of Fish Camp is to establish individuals as life-long anglers and stewards of aquatic and fisheries resources, so they can benefit from a healthy, active connection with nature.

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■■ Vehicles may be used only on designated roads. Hardee County Park, Hardee County: open to fishing. ■■ All anglers shall enter at the Park main entrance, the designated entry point, unless otherwise instructed. ■■ Angling from a boat is allowed by entry pass issued by Hardee County. ■■ Angling from shore does not require an entry pass unless otherwise posted at the Park main entrance. ■■ Days and hours of operation and quotas for freshwater fishing are posted at the Park main entrance. Fishing is permitted in designated lakes only. Any lake may be closed to public access by Hardee County for management purposes, or in the event that access to the lake exposes the public to danger, by posting notice at the Park main entrance. ■■ Sunshine bass bag limit:������������������������� 6 ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Crappie bag limit:�������������������������������� 10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Fish may not be filleted, nor their head or tail fin removed, until the angler has left the Park. Disposal of fish remains within Hardee County Park is prohibited. ■■ Taking of fish and wildlife with guns is prohibited. ■■ Motor vehicles may be operated only on designated roads, parking areas, and boat ramps. ■■ Vehicles may not obstruct designated roads, boat ramps and fire lanes. ■■ Swimming and float tubes are prohibited. ■■ Watercraft are restricted to idle speed—no wake.

Many anglers catch their first fish at Fish Camp!

This unique program utilizes partners to expand the reach and cost-effectiveness of the camps. Plans are to establish at least one Fish Camp in each county. There are currently about 20 camps; two of the best established are the Ocala and Everglades camps. To locate a camp, or to help start a camp at a new location, email FYCCN@myfwc.com. FWC staff developed and tested the Fish Camp model using Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration funds. Expanding the program relies on anglers, who voluntarily donate when buying a fishing license. FWC assists cooperators with startup costs for new camps and trains non-FWC trainers to ensure quality experiences. FWC staff also assists with evaluating camps to ensure positive impacts on campers’

environmental awareness, fishing skills, and long-term participation. Fish Camps are fun and exciting for kids and what they learn will help them to live happier and healthier lives and become advocates for sustaining our environmental resources.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Al Lopez Park Lake, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets or minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms are prohibited. Bobby Hicks Park Pond, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets and minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Swimming and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms are prohibited. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Crappie bag limit:���������������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Dover District Park Lake, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets or minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Edward Medard Park Reservoir, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ No person shall use any gear other than hook and line or rod and reel to take and possess game fish and nongame fish species. ■■ Persons possessing a valid freshwater commercial fishing license may use cast nets to catch nongame fish other than channel catfish from 12:01 AM Tuesday to 12:01 AM Friday. ■■ Days and hours of operation, park entrance and other user fees shall be designated by Hillsborough County and posted at the park main entrance. Gadsden Park Pond, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets and minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Swimming and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms are prohibited. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Crappie bag limit:���������������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Lake Thonotosassa, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used from sunset until 9 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish.

Steven J. Wortham Park Lake, Hillsborough County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets or minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Manatee Lake, Manatee County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used from sunset until 9 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. ■■ Outboard motors more than 20 h.p. may not be used. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Middle Lake, Pasco County: open to fishing. ■■ Watercraft shall be operated at idle speed only. ■■ The following are prohibited within 150 feet of the boat launch site; swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms, camping, or open fires. ■■ Bluegill and redear aggregate bag limit: 20 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Crappie bag limit:���������������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. Freedom Lake Park, Pinellas County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets or minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Lake Seminole, Pinellas County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used from sunset until 9 a.m. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Lake Tarpon, Pinellas County: open to fishing. ■■ Trotlines may be used from sunset until 9 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Largo Central Park Nature Preserve, Pinellas County: check entrance for open or closed status. ■■ Cast nets and minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Swimming, taking of fish or wildlife with firearms and possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Crappie daily bag limit:�������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Panfish daily bag limit:������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish daily bag limit:�������������� 6 Walsingham Park Lake, Pinellas County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets or minnow seines are prohibited. ■■ Swimming, and taking of fish or wildlife with firearms or possession of alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Bluegill and redear aggregate bag limit:��� 20 ■■ Crappie bag limit:���������������������������������10 ■■ Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Sunshine bass bag limit:������������������������� 4 ■■ Sunshine bass less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Lake Crago, Polk County: open to fishing. ■■ Largemouth bass, crappie and sunshine bass: statewide size and bag limits apply. ■■ Wire traps may be used for nongame fish. ■■ Trotlines may be used from sunset until 9 a.m. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Boats are restricted to idle speed—no wake. Lakes Hatchineha and Kissimmee, Polk County: open to fishing. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Nongame fish may be taken by castnets, dip nets, seines, trotlines, set lines, bush hooks, and traps as specified in Rules 68A-23.002, 68A-23.003 and 68A-23.004, F.A.C. Lake Parker, Polk County: open to fishing. ■■ Wire traps may be used for nongame fish. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. Mosaic Fish Management Area, Polk and Hardee counties: open to fishing. ■■ Fishing is allowed only by daily permit issued by the FWC. ■■ All anglers must check in and out at the Mosaic creel station, the designated entry point, unless otherwise instructed. ■■ Days and hours of operation and quotas shall be as designated by the FWC and posted at the Mosaic creel station (typically Mosaic is open Friday through Monday). Fishing is permitted in designated lakes only. All other lakes and restricted areas, so posted, are closed to public fishing. Any lake may be temporarily closed to public access for management purposes, or in the event that access to the lake exposes the public to danger, by posting notice at the creel station. ■■ Unless otherwise specified, Mosaic FMA harvest restrictions are: »» Black bass must be released immediately. »» Sunshine bass bag limit:��������������������� 6 »» Crappie bag limit:������������������������������10 »» Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. »» Channel catfish bag limit:������������������� 6

beco m

Lake Istokpoga, Highlands County: open to fishing. ■■ No bag limit for channel catfish. ■■ Nongame fish may be taken by cast nets, dip nets, seines, trotlines, set lines, bush hooks and wire traps. Refer to the Florida Commercial Freshwater Fisheries brochure.

an ing

(Continued on Page 26)

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is an educational opportunity that teaches hands-on, outdoor skills to adult women in a safe, supportive atmosphere. www.MyFWC.com/BOW

2019–2020 

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F M A R EG UL AT I O NS (Continued from Page 25) »» Fish may not be filleted, nor their heads or tail fins removed, until the angler has checked out at the Mosaic creel station. Disposal of fish remains within Mosaic property is prohibited. »» Taking of fish and wildlife with guns is prohibited. »» Motor vehicles may be operated only on designated roads, parking areas and boat ramps. »» Vehicles may not obstruct designated roads, boat ramps, gates or fire lanes. »» Swimming and float tubes are prohibited. »» Rough fish may be removed from designated lakes by cast nets and minnow seines by permission of the landowner. »» Outboard motors more than 10 h.p. may not be used. ■■ Regulations for individual Mosaic FMA lakes are as follows: »» Haul Road Pit: • Black bass 16 inches in total length or longer must be released immediately. • Black bass bag limit:����������������������� 2 »» LP2 West: • No boats permitted. Saddle Creek Park, Polk County: open to fishing. ■■ Cast nets are prohibited. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 Tenoroc Fish Management Area, Polk County: ■■ Fishing, hunting or trapping is allowed only by FWC permit. All anglers and hunters must check in and out at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area headquarters and deposit their valid fishing or hunting license with the custodian unless otherwise instructed. On water bodies where special-opportunity alligator hunts are permitted, participants may use guns and baits as specified in Rule 68A-25.042, F.A.C., when taking alligators. Permitted alligator hunt participants are exempt from the requirement to enter at designated points. ■■ Days and hours of operation and quotas shall be as designated by the FWC and posted at area headquarters (currently Friday through Monday only). Fishing is permitted in designated lakes only. Lakes may be closed to public access for management purposes or if access to the lake exposes the public to danger, by posting notice at the Tenoroc check station office. ■■ Discharge of firearms is limited to the FWC firing range or at FWC sponsored events. ■■ All dogs must be leashed, except as authorized by FWC. ■■ Unless otherwise specified, Tenoroc FMA harvest restrictions are: »» Crappie bag limit:������������������������������10 »» Crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately.

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»» »» »» »»

Sunshine bass bag limit:��������������������� 6 Channel catfish bag limit:������������������� 6 Black bass must be released immediately. Fish may not be filleted, nor their head or tail fins removed, until the angler has checked out at the area headquarters. »» Cast nets and minnow seines are prohibited. »» No person shall have any gun under his/ her control while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. »» Public access is prohibited in areas posted as “Restricted” for protection of threatened or endangered species, or environmentally sensitive areas. »» Motor vehicles may be operated only on named roads, designated parking areas, and fishing ramps as designated in the area use brochure. »» Vehicles may not obstruct designated roads, boat ramps, gates or fire lanes. »» Swimming and float tubes are prohibited. ■■ Regulations for Tenoroc lakes are as follows: »» Lakes 10, A, Butterfly, C, Coronet, F, Fish Hook, G, Half-Moon, Horseshoe, Hydrilla, Legs Lost, Lake East, Lost Lake West, Tern, 2, 3, and 4 (primitive launch only on Lakes 10, Butterfly, F, Fish Hook, G, Half-Moon, Lost Lake East, Lost Lake West, and Tern): • Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. »» Lakes B and 5: • Boats are restricted to idle speed—no wake. • Black bass 16 inches in total length or longer must be released immediately. • Black bass bag limit:����������������������� 2 »» Picnic Lake: • Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. • Black bass bag limit:����������������������� 2 • Black bass 16 inches in total length or longer must be released immediately. »» Pine (formerly East and West Pasture Lakes) and Derby Lakes: • Boats may not be used. • Closed to fishing unless authorized by FWC permit for agency-sanctioned events except for anglers who have been certified by the U.S. Veterans Administration, U.S. Social Security Administration, by a branch of the U.S. Armed Services, or by a licensed Florida physician to be totally and permanently disabled and has obtained a permanent license issued pursuant to 373.561 (5) (b), F.S. or unless that person presents proof of acceptance as a client for developmental disabilities services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. One properly licensed person may fish if accompanying or assisting a permitted individual as described above.

• Other than anglers described above, no one 16 years or older shall fish on Pine or Derby lakes unless accompanied by a child under 16 years of age. • Panfish bag limit:������������������������� 20 • Anglers may keep no more than 5 bluegill and redear sunfish 8 inches or longer in total length per day. • Derby Lake: Daily bag limit for black bass shall be five per day, only one of which may be 16 inches or greater in total length. »» Cemetery Lake: • Boats may not be used. • Panfish bag limit:������������������������� 20 • Anglers may keep no more than 5 bluegill and redear sunfish 8 inches or longer in total length per day. »» Long Lake: • Crappie bag limit:������������������������� 25 • No size limit for crappie. • Largemouth bass and sunshine bass: statewide size and bag limits apply. • No bag limit for channel catfish.

South Region

(see map on Page 6 for regions) Plantation Heritage Park Lake, Broward County: open to fishing. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately. The northern-most Tropical Park Lake, Miami-Dade County: open to fishing. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately. Caloosa Park Lake, Palm Beach County: open to fishing. ■■ Black bass must be released immediately. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately. Lake Okeeheelee, Palm Beach County: open to fishing. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Panfish bag limit:��������������������������������� 20 ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6 ■■ Bluegill and redear sunfish less than 8 inches in total length must be released immediately. Palm Lake, St. Lucie County: open to fishing. ■■ Gasoline motors may not be used on boats. ■■ Channel catfish bag limit:���������������������� 6

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


F. A . Q .

Frequently answered questions Do I need a freshwater or saltwater fishing license or both?

In general, you need a freshwater license to take freshwater fish and a saltwater license to take saltwater fish, unless one of the exemptions specified on page 12 applies. If you are fishing in fresh water where no saltwater species live, you need a freshwater license and, likewise, if you are fishing in the ocean or Gulf you need a saltwater license. However, when you get into estuarine areas where salt and fresh water mix and fish of both types can be found, the issue becomes less clear. The interpretation of the rule is: You need either a freshwater, saltwater or combination license, or appropriate exemption, to take fish (take is legally defined as taking, attempting to take, pursuing, molesting, capturing or killing any fish, or their nests or eggs by any means whether or not such actions result in obtaining possession of such fish or their nests or eggs). If you are using species-specific gear, your license should be appropriate (e.g., freshwater or saltwater) to the species you are targeting. Otherwise you need an appropriate type license to keep your catch and must immediately release any species for which you are not licensed. License requirements follow the species of fish, regardless of where they are caught. For example, if you only have a freshwater license and are primarily fishing for largemouth bass or bream (freshwater species) in a river, but happen to catch a red drum (a saltwater species), you must immediately release the red drum. An exception is you may take mullet from fresh water with only a freshwater fishing license, even though they are normally considered a saltwater species.

What regulations apply to frogs?

Pine Barrens treefrogs, Gopher frogs, and Florida bog frogs may not be taken from the wild. For all other frogs and toads, there are no seasons, bag or size limits and a recreational license is not needed. To sell frogs or take frogs to sell, a commercial fish dealers license is required. Frogs may be taken in accordance with 68A-26.002, Florida Administrative Code (FAC), including use of gigs—provided gigs are not specifically prohibited in the area. Florida Bog frogs may not be possessed without a Scientific Collectors Permit.

What regulations apply to freshwater crayfish?

There are no seasons, gear, bag or size limits for freshwater crayfish, and neither a recreational nor commercial license is needed. It is illegal to take Florida’s state-listed crayfish (Panama City, Sims Sink and Black Creek crayfishes) and all cave-inhabiting crayfish.

Freshwater turtles taken from the wild may not be sold, but freshwater turtles raised on turtle aquaculture facilities or purchased from licensed vendors as captive bred stock can be sold pursuant to possession and take limits in accordance with 68A-25.002 FAC. Snapping turtles, cooters and map turtles may not be taken from the wild because of similarity to Alligator snapping turtles, Suwannee cooters, and Barbour’s map turtles, respectively. Additionally, Alligator snapping turtles, Suwannee cooters, and Barbour’s map turtles may not be taken from the wild or possessed without a Scientific Collectors Permit. Striped mud turtles from the Lower Keys may not be taken from the wild. The following species have a possession limit of two: loggerhead musk turtles, box turtles, Escambia map turtles, and Diamondback terrapins. For all other freshwater turtles, take is limited to one turtle per person per day from the wild. Freshwater turtles only can be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook. Many freshwater turtle species may be taken year round, but softshell turtles may not be taken from the wild from May 1 to July 31. In addition, collecting and possession of freshwater turtle eggs is prohibited without a permit. You may transport no more than one turtle at a time, unless you have proof that all turtles were purchased legally (receipt indicating the purchase date, quantity and species of turtles acquired, the name and address of supplier, and license identification number of supplier), an importation permit from the FWC for turtles being brought into Florida, or a valid Aquaculture Certificate of Registration from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS: FloridaAquaculture.com). Red-eared sliders may be harvested without a permit but not possessed alive without a Conditional Species license or permit. Those in possession of a valid Aquaculture Certificate of Registration and restricted species authorization from the FDACS (FloridaAquaculture.com) may culture and sell red-eared sliders, but only to out-ofstate recipients or Floridians who have a valid Conditional Species license or permit. However, certified turtle farmers that buy red-eared sliders for direct retail sale must have a License to Possess Class III Wildlife for Exhibition or Public Sale (ESC). Conditional species information is at MyFWC.com/license/wildlife/nonnativespecies. ESC license information is available at

MyFWC.com/license/captive-wildlife/applications/. Rules subject to change; see FLrules.org for the latest.

What regulations apply to clams, mussels and other mollusks?

Regulations governing taking and possession of freshwater mussels are covered by 68A-23.015 FAC. In summary, “Taking” live or dead freshwater mussels for the purpose of sale, as well as “selling,” is prohibited. Bag Limit: No person shall take more than 10 freshwater mussels, or 20 half-shells of the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae per day. Additionally, no person may possess more than two days’ bag limit (20 individuals, 40 half-shells) of any mussels of these families. Any deviation requires a permit from the Executive Director, in accordance with 68A-9.002 FAC (see illustrations, page 13). ■■ Freshwater mussels from families other than the two mentioned above, such as Asian clams, may be taken for bait or personal use. No recreational license is needed. ■■ Mussels may only be taken by “hand-picking.” Use of brailles, crowfoot bars, or other mechanical methods is prohibited.

What regulations apply to harvesting fish for home aquaria?

Rules and regulations for recreational take and possession apply. You cannot be in possession, nor may your aquarium contain more than these limits. Legal methods of collecting and license requirements also apply. You need a freshwater fishing license to take (defined as “taking, attempting to take, pursuing, hunting, molesting, capturing, or killing any freshwater fish, their nests or eggs, by any means, whether or not such actions result in obtaining possession of such freshwater fish or their nests or eggs”). Avoid taking Florida’s endangered species. A list of them can be found at MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats.

How do I use total length and girth to estimate bass weight?

When you don’t have a scale, you can use total length and girth to get a rough estimate of a bass’ weight. Use the following formula: Total Length (in inches) squared, times girth (in inches) divided by 1200. For example, a 22" long bass with a girth of 15" would weigh about 6.1 pounds (22 x 22 x 15 / 1200 = 6.1). See Legacy. MyFWC.com/Fish for an online calculator.

How to measure your catch

What regulations apply to freshwater turtles?

Licenses and permits are not required to take a recreational bag limit of turtles in accordance with rules provided below. Freshwater turtles can only be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Measure Girth around the fattest part of the fish

Measure Total Length with mouth closed and tail squeezed together

2019–2020 

27


ADVISORIES

Florida’s freshwater fish—fun to catch, good to eat & healthy too! Why eat fish?

Eating fish may help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids—a type of fatty acid that supports fetal, infant and child brain and eye development—are good for mothers and children.

How much should I eat?

Adults should eat about 8 ounces of fish each week, and women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding, should eat 8 to 12 ounces (cooked weight) of fish per week. Eating a variety of fish has the most benefit.

What about mercury exposure?

For most people, the risk of eating mercury-exposed fish is not a health concern, but developing fetuses and young children are more sensitive to the effects mercury has on the brain. Women of childbearing age and young children should eat fish with low mercury levels. Mercury can’t be cut away, cleaned or cooked out of fish.

Basic Guidelines for Eating Freshwater Fish The following Basic Eating Guidelines provide general advice to anglers from all untested fresh waters in the state. For more detailed guidance for all untested fresh waters, consult the Florida Department of Health publication Basic Guidelines for Eating Freshwater Fish (http://bit.ly/FishAdvisories) or call 850-245-4250. You can search for guidelines for your county at https://dchpexternalapps.doh.state.fl.us/fishadvisory/.

WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE & YOUNG CHILDREN

Eat 1 meal per week of these fish with very low mercury: (1 meal is 8 oz. uncooked, or 6 oz. cooked) Bluegill

Eat 1 meal per month of these fish with low mercury:

Redear sunfish

Brown bullhead

• Black crappie

• White catfish

• Spotted sunfish

• Mayan cichlid

• Channel catfish

• Redbreast sunfish

• Warmouth

• Chain pickerel

Black bass including largemouth bass: Bass smaller than 16 inches. If in one month you eat a meal of the fish listed above: Don’t eat any more fish listed as eat 1 meal per month. Instead eat only other high omega-3, low-mercury fish for the remainder of the month, try: farm raised rainbow trout, salmon, farm raised catfish and mullet. Do NOT eat: Black bass including largemouth bass larger than 16 inches. Avoid eating bowfin and gar.

The recommendations above are for general statewide use. For specific information on tested waters follow advice at http://bit.ly/FishAdvisories. You can search for guidelines for your county at https://dchpexternalapps.doh.state.fl.us/fishadvisory/.

WOMEN NOT PLANNING TO BE PREGNANT & MEN

Eat 2 meals per week of these fish with very low mercury: (1 meal is 8 oz. uncooked, or 6 oz. cooked) Bluegill

Eat 1 meal per week of these fish with low mercury:

Brown bullhead

Redear sunfish • Black crappie

• White catfish

• Warmouth

• Channel catfish

• Spotted sunfish

• Mayan cichlid

Redbreast sunfish • Chain pickerel

Black bass including largemouth bass: Bass smaller than 16 inches. Black bass including largemouth bass: Bass larger than 16 inches. Eat 1 meal per month of these fish with moderate mercury:

If in one month you eat a meal of the fish listed above: Don’t eat any more fish listed as eat 1 meal per month. Instead eat only other high omega-3, low-mercury fish for the remainder of the month, try: farm raised rainbow trout, salmon, farm raised catfish and mullet.

The recommendations above are for general statewide use. For specific information on tested waters follow advice at http://bit.ly/FishAdvisories. You can search for guidelines for your county at https://dchpexternalapps.doh.state.fl.us/fishadvisory/.

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 2019–2020

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Sponsoring the 2019 Kids Programs Presented by the Charlotte Harbor Reef Association

As a way of saying thank you for your support, we will feature your business alongside our tournament winners in the June, July, August, and September issues of our magazine WATER LIFE www.waterlifemagazine.com The level of your donation reflects the size your business ad appears. 100-percent of your donation goes to our kidsʼ programs. We are a 501-(c) 3 Florida Non Profit since 1998 WE OFFER THE FOLLOWING PROGRAMS FOR KIDS – donations and grants make this possible:

1) Be The Fish!. We employ licensed local fishing guides to teach 6th graders about local fishing and the local environment. More than 1600 children have graduated our program during the 18 years we have offered it. All students in the program receive quality rods and reels, lures and other tackle. The class is offered live and online. 2) The Dollar Bill Challenge Our catch/teach/photo/release tournament held in June, July, August and September for Junior Anglers age 6 to 16. It is both an educational tournament and a fund raiser for our programs. Winners each month receive rods and reels and are featured in our magazine. The Grand Champion will be awarded a Tracker model 1032 Boat. There is a monthly FishQuiz anglers must complete as part of the tournament. 3) Outings: We now offer three outings: an offshore fishing trip from Englewood a seine-net-pulls at Ponce Park in Punta Gorda and a half day inshore fishing trip in Charlotte Harbor.

Levels of sponsorship

Ethical Angler Sponsor Master Angler Sponsor Offshore Sponsor Small Business Sponsor

$2500 $1000 $500 $250

Please feel free to call us at (941) 766-8180

for more information

Michael Heller Ellen Heller Charlotte Harbor Reef Assn. Water LIFE magazine

amount: __________ The Charlotte Harbor Reef Association, a 501(c)-3 non-profit corporation, Tax Exempt # 85-8012583908C-9

Sponsorship payable to ʻThe Charlotte Harbor Reef Associationʼ

Retain this portion for your records Detach and mail the section below with your sponsorship donation Thank You for Your Support! Your information will remain private.

Mail to: Charlotte Harbor Reef Assn., 217 Bangsberg Rd, Port Charlotte, FL 33952

2019 Sponsor or Business Name: ______________________________ Sponsorship Amount:____________

Your Name__________________________________________________

eMail Address ______________________________________________________________________ Contact Phone ________________________

PLEASE e-mail your Business logo to: CHRA@comcast.net

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2019 $1Bill Challenge... Angler's Workbook  

2019 $1Bill Challenge... Angler's Workbook  

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