CFOA News

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  • 09 Apr 2014 7:19 PM | Nathan Jones

    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 | Nathan Jones

     

    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 | Nathan Jones

     

    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 | Nathan Jones

    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.”

  • 21 Jan 2014 8:23 PM | Nathan Jones

    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
    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

    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

    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

    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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