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  • 21 Jan 2014 8:23 PM | Nathan Jones (Administrator)

    Helping your fish survive helps you

     

    By Guest Columnist Amanda Nalley

     

    Imagine for a minute you are out to sea, line wet, with about 150 feet of water separating boat from the bottom. You feel a tug. Instinct kicks in and you want to yank up to set the hook, but you remember that doesn’t work with circle hooks, a required gear when fishing for reef fish like snapper and grouper in all Gulf waters and in federal waters of the Atlantic south of 28 degrees north latitude. So you gently start reeling it in, hoping nothing eats your catch before you can get it to the boat.

    Alas, the fish surfaces, but it is too small to keep and it seems to be experiencing barotrauma, a condition that occurs when the gases in the swim bladder expand after being brought to the surface from depth.

    STOP! The choices you make from here on can greatly impact whether or not that fish you are about to release survives to be caught another day. Do you know what to do?

    Post-release fish survival should be important to all anglers. The more fish that survive being caught and subsequently released, the more fish there will be in general. This can eventually mean extension of open seasons, increases in bag limits and more successful fishing trips.

    While every situation is different, there are plenty of things you can do to help maximize the survival of fish you plan on releasing, from using wet hands when touching a fish to holding your catch horizontally. Matching your gear to the size fish you are targeting can help shorten the time it takes to get the fish to the boat, which can help a fish survive if released because it will be less exhausted.

    If your fish is experiencing barotrauma, time is of the essence. Barotrauma can potentially cause injury to the internal organs as they are pushed out of the body (signs of this include stomach protruding from mouth, intestines protruding from the anus, eyes bulging out and bloated belly).

    There are two main types of tools currently used to help relieve the effects of barotrauma. Venting tools are hollow, sharpened devices (think a syringe without the plunger) that can be used to release the expanded gases. Descending devices, which are used to send the fish back down to depth, also have promise.

    Until recently, it has been required to have and use venting tools when fishing for reef fish in the Gulf, but this requirement was removed in federal waters last year and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to remove the requirement in state waters last November. The rule change should go in effect around the end of the month.

    The removal of this rule will give anglers the ability to choose the best method to maximize survival of released fish.

    For example, on a hot summer day, using a descending device might be a better option because you are quickly returning the fish to the cooler water at the bottom.

    And while venting, when done correctly can help, not all fish need to be vented.

    Both tools have advantages and disadvantages.

    Hit a hot spot? It is possible to vent and release several fish in the same amount of time it would take to descend a single fish. Then again, not everyone feels confident on when, where and how to vent. Going too deep or venting in the wrong place can cause more damage than good.

    But you also need to know what you are doing when using a descending device. If done incorrectly, the fish may come loose too soon. Descending devices also can require the dedication of a rod, which is used to bring the descending device down and back up again.

    While both devices can be homemade or purchased and while both are inexpensive, descending devices can cost, on average, slightly more than venting tools. Both devices also come in various sizes, but venting tools tend to generally be smaller than descending devices and do not take up a lot of space in an already-crowded tackle box.

    Either way, the choice is yours. So shop around, be sure to read the instructions thoroughly and, hopefully, take home a keeper or two.

    For more on how to make sure your fish survives release, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”
  • 18 Jan 2014 12:52 PM | Jeff Page (Administrator)

    By Guest Columnist Amanda Nalley

     

    Imagine for a minute you are out to sea, line wet, with about 150 feet of water separating boat from the bottom. You feel a tug. Instinct kicks in and you want to yank up to set the hook, but you remember that doesn’t work with circle hooks, a required gear when fishing for reef fish like snapper and grouper in all Gulf waters and in federal waters of the Atlantic south of 28 degrees north latitude. So you gently start reeling it in, hoping nothing eats your catch before you can get it to the boat.

    Alas, the fish surfaces, but it is too small to keep and it seems to be experiencing barotrauma, a condition that occurs when the gases in the swim bladder expand after being brought to the surface from depth.

    STOP! The choices you make from here on can greatly impact whether or not that fish you are about to release survives to be caught another day. Do you know what to do?

    Post-release fish survival should be important to all anglers. The more fish that survive being caught and subsequently released, the more fish there will be in general. This can eventually mean extension of open seasons, increases in bag limits and more successful fishing trips.

    While every situation is different, there are plenty of things you can do to help maximize the survival of fish you plan on releasing, from using wet hands when touching a fish to holding your catch horizontally. Matching your gear to the size fish you are targeting can help shorten the time it takes to get the fish to the boat, which can help a fish survive if released because it will be less exhausted.

    If your fish is experiencing barotrauma, time is of the essence. Barotrauma can potentially cause injury to the internal organs as they are pushed out of the body (signs of this include stomach protruding from mouth, intestines protruding from the anus, eyes bulging out and bloated belly).

    There are two main types of tools currently used to help relieve the effects of barotrauma. Venting tools are hollow, sharpened devices (think a syringe without the plunger) that can be used to release the expanded gases. Descending devices, which are used to send the fish back down to depth, also have promise.

    Until recently, it has been required to have and use venting tools when fishing for reef fish in the Gulf, but this requirement was removed in federal waters last year and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to remove the requirement in state waters last November. The rule change should go in effect around the end of the month.

    The removal of this rule will give anglers the ability to choose the best method to maximize survival of released fish.

    For example, on a hot summer day, using a descending device might be a better option because you are quickly returning the fish to the cooler water at the bottom.

    And while venting, when done correctly can help, not all fish need to be vented.

    Both tools have advantages and disadvantages.

    Hit a hot spot? It is possible to vent and release several fish in the same amount of time it would take to descend a single fish. Then again, not everyone feels confident on when, where and how to vent. Going too deep or venting in the wrong place can cause more damage than good.

    But you also need to know what you are doing when using a descending device. If done incorrectly, the fish may come loose too soon. Descending devices also can require the dedication of a rod, which is used to bring the descending device down and back up again.

    While both devices can be homemade or purchased and while both are inexpensive, descending devices can cost, on average, slightly more than venting tools. Both devices also come in various sizes, but venting tools tend to generally be smaller than descending devices and do not take up a lot of space in an already-crowded tackle box.

    Either way, the choice is yours. So shop around, be sure to read the instructions thoroughly and, hopefully, take home a keeper or two.

    For more on how to make sure your fish survives release, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”

  • 02 Jan 2014 7:54 PM | Nathan Jones (Administrator)
    GROUPER
    Atlantic
    Several species close Jan. 1
     
    Several species of grouper close to recreational and commercial harvest Jan. 1 in state waters of the Atlantic, including all of Monroe County. The closure includes gag, black, red, yellowmouth, yellowfin and tiger grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby.

    This season will remain closed through April 30, reopening May 1.
    A similar closure will also occur in federal waters of the Atlantic. Tiger grouper is not included in the federal closure.

    Links for more information: MyFWC.com
  • 05 Dec 2013 7:20 PM | Nathan Jones (Administrator)

    Beginning in 2014, all eight license-free fishing days will fall on the same weekend days from year to year, allowing potential anglers to plan fishing trips in advance and businesses and nonprofit groups to plan events around these fishing license holidays. The recurring days will be:

    Saltwater

    • First Saturday and Sunday in June
    • First Saturday in September
    • Saturday following Thanksgiving

    Freshwater

    • First Saturday and Sunday in April
    • Second Saturday and Sunday in June

    The FWC offers several angler-recognition programs to help promote fishing and share memories. Freshwater anglers can go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com to be entered in a drawing for a bass boat and motor. If they catch, document and release a trophy largemouth bass over 8 pounds, they can submit a photo of the entire fish (head to tail) on a scale to claim great rewardsundefinedstarting with a $50 gift card, custom T-shirt and certificate. For other recreational freshwater fishes (33 species included), a simple photo of a fish that exceeds the designated minimum length or weight will get them a Big Catch certificate and bragging rights on the website.

    For saltwater anglers, the challenge is to catch a “slam” by catching three different species of saltwater fishes in the same day. Four different groupings of popular sport fish are included to promote the diversity of marine fisheries the state has to offer. For an application and to learn more about this program, which is conducted in collaboration with the International Game Fish Association, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing, then click saltwater and Grand Slams.

  • 05 Dec 2013 7:16 PM | Nathan Jones (Administrator)

    Gag grouper recreational harvest closes in most Gulf waters in early December


    Gag grouper will close for recreational harvest in most Gulf of Mexico state waters Dec. 4, with the last day of harvest being Dec. 3. All Gulf federal waters will close Dec. 3, with the last day of harvest being Dec. 2.


    State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties were open from April 1 through June 30 and were not open during the July 1 through Dec. 3 season. Monroe County is also excluded because it follows Atlantic rules for gag grouper.


    The FWC manages marine fish from the shore to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico.

    These closures are an effort to help rebuild gag grouper populations in the Gulf of Mexico back to strong sustainable levels.


    To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Grouper.”

     

    Snook harvest seasonal closure in Gulf starts Dec. 1


    The recreational harvest season for snook closes Dec. 1 in Gulf state and federal waters, including Monroe County and Everglades National Park, and will remain closed through Feb. 28, 2014, reopening to harvest March 1, 2014. Snook can continue to be caught and released during the closed season.


    This and other regular season closures are designed to help protect the species during vulnerable times such as cold weather. Atlantic state and federal waters including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River will close Dec. 15 through Jan. 31, 2014, reopening to harvest Feb. 1, 2014.


    Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing” and “Recreational Regulations” for more information on snook.

  • 05 Dec 2013 7:08 PM | Nathan Jones (Administrator)

    Venting tool requirement removed in Gulf waters

     

    Soon Florida anglers will no longer be required to have and use a venting tool when fishing for reef fish in Gulf of Mexico state waters.


    During its Nov. 21 meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) removed the requirement in Gulf state waters, making state regulations consistent with rules in federal waters. By removing this rule, anglers will now have the freedom to determine how to best maximize survival of released reef fish using devices they feel are appropriate, depending on the circumstances.


    The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council removed the requirement to have and use a venting tool in Gulf federal waters earlier this year.

    These changes will take effect as soon as possible. Another notice will be issued to let the public know when these changes take effect.

    When fish are brought quickly to the surface from deep water, the change in pressure can cause gases within the fish’s swim bladder to expand. This condition is called barotrauma and can cause damage to internal organs and reduce the likelihood a fish will survive when returned to the water. Typically, fish suffering from barotrauma must be treated if they are to survive and swim back down to deep water. Venting tools are used to treat barotrauma by allowing gases to escape from a fish’s body cavity. Descending devices, which bring fish back down to deeper waters, are another, more recently developed option that can now also be used to increase survival rates among fish with barotrauma. Maximizing post-release survival of fish is important in marine fisheries management because it means more fish survive to potentially reproduce and be harvested in the future.


    While venting tools can still be a useful way to increase chances of survival after being released, fish do not always need to be vented.


    Venting tools were required in Gulf state and federal waters since 2008. This requirement was intended to increase survival rates of released red snapper, but applied to all species of Gulf reef fish. These tools are not required in Atlantic state or federal waters.


    The use of non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks and dehooking devices will still be required in state and federal Gulf waters when fishing for reef fish. These tools minimize handling times for reef fish, which aids in survival of the fish upon release.


    To learn more about recognizing barotrauma, and what to do, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Catch and Release.” Information about reef fish gear rules is available under “Recreational Regulations.”

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