CFOA News

  • 10 Sep 2014 7:36 PM | Anonymous

    At a Sept. 10 meeting in Kissimmee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) acted to prohibit lionfish aquaculture. Lionfish are an invasive species that have a negative impact on native fish and habitat.

    The changes will go into effect by Dec. 1. Updates will be available at MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

    Management changes were developed in coordination with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and include:

    • Prohibiting the harvest and possession of lionfish eggs and larvae for any purpose other than destruction;
    • Prohibiting the intentional breeding of lionfish in captivity.

    A scientific research exception will allow permitted research institutions to breed and cultivate lionfish for the purposes of researching population control and impact mitigation.

    “Every lionfish prevented from entering Florida waters, and every change that encourages removal is a step toward successfully limiting the negative impacts lionfish have on native fish and wildlife,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley.

    The FWC implemented several management changes including prohibiting the importation of live lionfish into Florida effective Aug. 1. The FWC encourages divers and anglers to remove lionfish whenever they can.

    See or catch a lionfish? Report a sighting by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting MyFWC.com/Lionfish and clicking on “Report Lionfish.”

    To learn more about these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about lionfish, visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

  • 07 May 2014 7:35 AM | Anonymous

    The commercial and recreational harvest of stone crab claws in Florida closes on May 16, with the last day of harvest on May 15. This closure occurs each year during the species’ peak spawning season to help protect and sustain Florida’s valuable stone crab resource. Stone crab season will reopen on Oct. 15.

    Commercially harvested stone crab claws may be possessed and sold during the closed season but only if they have been placed in inventory prior to May 16 by a licensed wholesale or retail dealer.

    Stone crab traps must be removed from the water within five days after the close of the stone crab season unless a special extension is granted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

    Learn more about the stone crab harvest season by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Saltwater” and then either “Recreational Regulations” or “Commercial.”

  • 20 Apr 2014 8:57 PM | Anonymous

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set the Gulf recreational red snapper season in state waters April 16 at a meeting near Tallahassee. The season will be a total of 52 days in 2014 and will start the Saturday before Memorial Day (May 24 this year) and remain open through July 14, closing July 15.

    Starting the season the Saturday before Memorial Day will provide recreational red snapper fishing through an important holiday weekend, helping attract more visitors and bringing economic benefits to our coastal communities.

    The federal season is currently projected to be 11 days long, starting June 1 and remaining open through June 11. This season is subject to change depending on projections by NOAA Fisheries for when the recreational red snapper quota may be caught.

    Florida state waters in the Gulf are from shore to 9 nautical miles. Federal waters extend from where state waters end, out to about 200 nautical miles.

    The daily bag limit will remain 2 per person in state and federal waters.

    To learn more about this agenda item, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Snapper.”

  • 20 Apr 2014 8:55 PM | Anonymous

    The lionfish is an invasive species that threatens Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. With that in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on April 16 moved forward with steps to combat the spread of invasive lionfish.

    Changes proposed by FWC staff at today’s meeting near Tallahassee will be brought back before the Commission at its June meeting in Fort Myers for final approval. Changes include:

    • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
    • Prohibiting the development of aquaculture of lionfish;
    • Allowing the harvest of lionfish when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time; and
    • Increasing opportunities that will allow participants in approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not allowed. This will be done through a permitting system.

    Staff has been working with the Florida Legislature on a bill in support of the initiatives to prohibit the importation of live lionfish and the aquaculture of lionfish.

    “By targeting the importation of lionfish to our state, we can limit the number of new lionfish that find their way into Florida waters and, at the same time, encourage further harvest to reduce the existing invasive population,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, sponsor of the House bill. “These fish pose a significant threat to Florida’s ecosystem, and I am proud to stand in support of the proposed ban. Anything we can do to limit new lionfish introductions and further facilitate the development of a commercial market for this invasive species is a step in the right direction.”

    Changes like these will make it easier for divers to remove lionfish from Florida waters and will help prevent additional introductions of lionfish into marine habitats.

    Lionfish control efforts, from outreach and education to regulatory changes, have been a priority for FWC staff. In 2013, they hosted the first ever Lionfish Summit, which brought together various stakeholders from the public as well as management and research fields to discuss the issues and brainstorm solutions. The changes proposed at today’s meeting came from ideas that were discussed at the Lionfish Summit.

    To learn more about these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about lionfish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”

  • 20 Apr 2014 8:53 PM | Anonymous
    On April 10, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) sent a national bulletin announcing that the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery had "all but closed" to recreational anglers. Citing a recent court decision brought about with help from Environmental Defense Fund, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council asked NOAA Fisheries to implement more rigid restrictions in federal waters on the basis of 2013 recreational data collection results, moving to create an 11-day red snapper season in the Gulf. 

     

    RFA has pointed out that recreational red snapper seasons in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico have been significantly reduced every year following the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. That federal law, which now incorporates rigid annual catch limits and punishing accountability measures on the recreational sector, also required that NOAA Fisheries rollout out a new recreational data collection program with improved survey methodologies as of January 1, 2009; that same year, scientific stock assessments proved that overfishing for red snapper had ended, however NOAA's use of old data methodologies forced the red snapper season to plummet to 53 days in 2010, ultimately falling to just 40 days by 2013.

     

    While NOAA staffers have testified before numerous Congressional committee meetings as to the fact that the federal deadline to fix the recreational methodologies has still not been met, the agency, with help from Environmental Defense Fund, is forcing federal waters to be virtually closed to red snapper.

     

    "Had NOAA attorneys simply told the truth in the Environmental Defense case, that they haven't made the required changes to the recreational data collection, perhaps the judge would've responded differently," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Federal agencies today can apparently do whatever they damn well please with support from the environmental community, and ultimately it's going to be up to states to stand up for their citizens, just like Governor Rick Scott of Florida."

     

    Donofrio on Friday praised Governor Scott for a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on April 17th calling for more support for recreational fishermen and major a overhaul of the federal fisheries law.

     

    "I am very disappointed...in how the federal system has been managing red snapper and other fish stocks," Governor Scott wrote, adding "The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Act) lacks much needed flexibility."

     

    "The Act must be modified to allow more fishing opportunities, not less, as fish stocks improve," the governor added in his letter, which was also forwarded to 14 members of the House of Representatives and both U.S. Senators from Florida. Governor Scott also went on to describe for the Commerce Secretary how better stock assessments and recreational data collection are key to managing both recreational and commercial fisheries.

     

    "As this act is revised and reauthorized by Congress, I urge you to support amendments that incorporate more flexibility, more up-to-date data collection and seriously consider social and economic needs," said Governor Scott, while also adding "now is the time to fix what is broken and to turn disappointment and frustration into a success story for those who depend upon and enjoy our fisheries."

     

    Click here too read Governor Scott's letter in full 

     

    While an inflexible law, faulty data collection and deep-pocketed environmental lawyers continue to whittle away at federal rights, some states are responding defiantly on behalf of their constituents.

     

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted last week to set a 52-day red snapper season in state waters, opening up on May 24th and continuing through July 14th with a two fish bag limit out to 9 nautical miles from shore.

     

    The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries also announced that licensed saltwater anglers may harvest red snapper in state waters any day of the week until the end of the year with a two fish bag and 16-inch size limit. Louisiana officials are claiming state rights out to 10.35 miles.  

     

    Meanwhile, red snapper may be caught in Texas state waters all year long with a four fish bag limit and 15-inch size limit, though it's estimated that 95% of the state's annual harvest occurs in federal waters which extend beyond 9 miles from shore.

     

    Alabama's Marine Resources Director, Chris Blankenship, said he'd been in talks with Governor Robert Bentley about a course of action there, while all signs are that Mississippi will be apt to comply with the federal red snapper season in their state waters. Both of those states' have a 3-mile line for state waters.

     

    "We need a change in management of our fisheries," said Pam Anderson of Capt. Anderson's Marina in Panama City Beach, FL. "Our state fishery managers know we must be protective of our resources. That is a given as far as all of us are concerned. But, they know that the NOAA data collection and modeling process is seriously flawed and they know the economic impact to their states matters."

     

    Anderson said the tone at the recent Gulf Council meeting setting the 11-day recreational season was noticeably anti-recreational. "The elation of the commercial operators and the enviro groups was over the top; high-fiving the potential economic losses planned for the recreational angling community, jeering at opposition like bullies in a middle school playground," she said.

     

    "Adding insult to injury, when discussing the negative economic impact on the recreational fishery, certain Council members likened recreational anglers to inerrant children who need to be punished, not given more candy," Anderson added.

     

    RFA board member Nate Odum owns Mexico Beach Marina- a Yamaha Outboard dealer, Sea Tow port and tackle shop- and he says he's very skeptical of what what's going on with fisheries management, noting how storms and high seas had a major impact on participation during the 2013 red snapper season, yet somehow NOAA Fisheries' data showed continued overharvest numbers.

     

    "The marina's bait and fuel sales reflected a significant drop in recreational fishing," Odum stated, adding "I am here every day, I have my fingers on the pulse of one of the finest red snapper fisheries in the Gulf and after 5 years, I have not been approached once for my input. So you tell me, are they serious about common sense, sound science and the factual collection of data?"

     

    NOAA Fisheries announced on April 7th that the agency would be developing a new national recreational fishing policy, but RFA's Donofrio said skepticism remains high in the recreational fishing community. "I hope the Commerce Department isn't putting forth any deadlines for this new angler friendly approach to management, we know from the data collection deadline what that would mean."

     

    "Based on what we have seen in the past two weeks at the federal level and within these regional council meetings, NOAA clearly isn't listening," Donofrio added

    .

     

     
    About Recreational Fishing Alliance
    The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call 888-JOIN-RFA or visit www.joinrfa.org.
  • 09 Apr 2014 7:22 PM | Anonymous

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet April 15-17 at the Florida Public Safety Institute, 85 Academy Drive, Havana. The Institute is west of the city of Midway on U.S. 90. Full-day business sessions Wednesday and Thursday start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday’s half-day discussions session starts at 1 p.m.

    The public is invited to all three days and will be provided opportunities to speak.

    Highlights of the agenda include:

    • Tuesday’s strategic discussions about the future of conservation: human-wildlife interaction; connecting youths to the outdoors; and increasing participation in conservation.
    • Commission action Wednesday on these marine fisheries agenda items:
      • Gulf of Mexico red snapper season modifications.
      • Sea cucumber management alternatives.
      • Proposal for a Gulf reef-fish data reporting system.
      • A proposal to prevent harmful, nonnative lionfish from being introduced and to facilitate removal of the predatory fish.
      • Gulf and South Atlantic fishery management council updates.
      • Thursday’s topics: proposed final rule amendments on the deer management units in Zone D in the western Florida Panhandle, draft amendments to alligator management, and staff reports.

    For the full agenda, go to MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings.” Can’t attend meeting in person? Follow live coverage on Twitter @MyFWC and join in the conversation by using tag #FWC2014. https://twitter.com/MyFWC.

    Also check the Florida Channel (www.thefloridachannel.org/) for possible live webcast times.

  • 09 Apr 2014 7:19 PM | Anonymous

    Across Florida there are signs that spring has sprung, from the fine layer of yellow pollen coating everything in the north to folks returning to the water sans wetsuit in the south. Warmer water also means the return of Spanish mackerel, a feisty fish that migrates south when the water temperature dips below 70 and should be returning to north Florida waters right about now.

    Spanish mackerel are easy to catch, making them a great target for kids and those new to the sport, but their aggressive fighting behavior when on the line also makes them exciting for seasoned veterans.

    Interested in catching a Spanish mackerel or two? Spring and early summer are a great time to target these fish as they move north along the coast. They frequent nearshore sandy and grassy areas, from bays to beaches and piers, but can also be caught farther offshore. Spanish mackerel typically follow baitfish, so look for areas where fish are jumping.

    The main two ways to target Spanish mackerel are trolling for them (running a line behind your boat while it is in motion) and casting.

    When it comes to gear, the goal is to replicate baitfish.

    If you are trolling for them, many people use what is called a mackerel tree, a series of hooks on a line with pieces of tubing acting as lures near each hook followed by a trolling spoon.

    If you plan to fish for Spanish mackerel by casting, then spoons, jigs or any shallow diving lure will work. Spanish mackerel are a fairly fragile fish that need to be handled carefully and quickly when catching and releasing. If your artificial lures have treble hooks on them, consider bending down all the barbs or replacing the treble hooks with single hooks. Treble hooks can cause significant damage to a fish.

    Unlike some species, Spanish mackerel will go after a wide variety of artificial lures, but if you are a natural-bait fan, try threadfin herring, cigar minnows or finger-sized mullet.

    Mackerel have extremely sharp teeth. So if you don’t want to lose your lure and your line, make sure to use a leader that is at least 30 pound test. Above that, a good light spinning rod with 10- to 15-pound test will be plenty to reel in the fish.

    Whether or not you ever hit the daily bag limit of 15 Spanish mackerel per person in state waters, there are plenty of other fish nearby to target, such as bluefish and lady fish, which also follow bait around.

    Be sure to keep a measuring device nearby. The minimum size limit for Spanish mackerel is 12 inches fork length, which is measured from the tip of the lower jaw with the mouth closed to the center of the fork in the tail. Be sure to use a straight line measurement and not a flexible tape, as this can throw off your measurement.

    Size limits and bag limits help ensure the Spanish mackerel population remains sustainable for future generations. The first statewide daily bag limit was set in 1986 and was four fish per person. This was increased to five in 1991, to 10 in 1993 and to where it is today, 15, in 2000. The size limit went into effect in 1999.

    Find a keeper or two? Spanish mackerel are best eaten fresh, not frozen, within the first three days of being caught. Make sure to ice them down good and keep them cold. They can be grilled, fried, baked or smoked.

    Catch a really big one? The current state record is 12 pounds, caught off Fort Pierce in 1984, and the world record is 13 pounds caught in North Carolina in 1987. If you think you can beat that, visit the International Game Fish Association website at IGFA.org or, for state records, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater” and “Grand Slam/Fishing Records.”

    Learn more about Spanish mackerel at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Mackerel, Spanish.” Email comments, questions, photos or suggestions to Saltwater@MyFWC.com.

  • 19 Feb 2014 11:11 AM | Anonymous

     

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved changes at the February Commission meeting that will allow for-hire captain and crew to retain recreational bag limits of vermilion snapper, groupers and golden tilefish in state waters of the Atlantic (including all of Monroe County for grouper species and golden tilefish).

     

    This change will make state regulations consistent with Atlantic federal regulations and will go into effect as soon as possible.

     

    Similar changes to federal rules became effective Jan. 27. The federal rule was modified because it was not effectively limiting harvest of vermilion snapper and gag grouper as originally intended and it was causing confusion because captain and crew of for-hire vessels could keep recreational bag limits of some snapper and grouper species, but not others. Additional harvest of these species by captain and crew is expected to be negligible and not negatively impact fish stocks.

     

    To learn more about this change, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about snapper and grouper recreational regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Overview” under the “Reef Fish” header.

  • 19 Feb 2014 11:10 AM | Anonymous

     

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed 2014 Gulf recreational red snapper season dates in state waters. This proposed season will be brought back before the Commission for final approval at its April 15-17 meeting in Tallahassee.

     

    The 2014 proposed season, if approved in April, would be 52 days long, starting the Saturday before Memorial Day, (May 24 this year) and remaining open through July 14, closing July 15. The Commission could choose to change the season length and dates at the April meeting. Starting the season the Saturday before Memorial Day could increase recreational fishing opportunities for anglers by giving them the chance to fish for red snapper in state waters during the holiday weekend.

     

    The federal season is scheduled to be 40 days long, starting June 1 and remaining open through July 10. This season is subject to change if NOAA Fisheries data indicate that the recreational red snapper quota will be caught before or after the end of the federal season.

     

    State waters in the Gulf are from shore to 9 nautical miles. Federal waters extend from where state waters end out to about 200 nautical miles.

     

    To learn more about this agenda item, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Snapper.”

  • 27 Jan 2014 7:49 PM | Anonymous

    The recreational harvest season for snook reopens on Feb. 1 in Florida’s Atlantic coastal and inland waters (from the Miami-Dade/Monroe county line north), including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. The season will remain open through May 31.

    In the Atlantic, anglers may keep one snook per day that is not less than 28 or more than 32 inches total length, which is measured from the most forward point of the head with the mouth closed to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed while the fish is lying on its side. A snook permit is required to keep snook, along with a saltwater fishing license unless exempt from the license requirements. Only hook-and-line gear is allowed when targeting or harvesting snook.

    It is illegal to buy or sell snook.

    Snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. As a result, the FWC encourages anglers to use moderation when determining whether or not to take a snook home, even during the open season.

    Researchers ask anglers who harvest the fish to save their filleted carcasses and provide them to the FWC by dropping them off at a participating bait and tackle store. For the county-by-county list, go to MyFWC.com/Research and click on “Saltwater,” “Saltwater Fish,” “Snook,” and “Snook Anglers Asked to Help with Research.”

    The harvest of snook in all of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico state waters, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County, will reopen March 1. Anglers may catch and release snook during the closed season, but the FWC encourages anglers to handle and release these fish carefully to help ensure their survival upon release. Proper handling methods can help ensure the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come. To learn more about fish handling, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater”, “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”

    For more information visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Snook.”

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