Effective July 1, 2011, bonefish is a catch-and-release-only species and may not be harvested. Anglers can still temporarily possess one bonefish at a time at the site of capture to take a photograph, or to measure or weigh the fish. For weigh-in tournaments, a tournament exemption permit that allows tournament participants to temporarily possess and transport bonefish to a weigh station for tournament purposes is now required. These permits are granted to the tournament director, but if you are participating in a weigh-in bonefish tournament, the tournament director will provide you with a copy of the permit to keep with you while you fish in the tournament.
Most anglers already release the bonefish they catch as a conservation measure. When you release bonefish, be sure to practice proper fish handling techniques to ensure the fish survives to fight another day. One of the most important ways to help released bonefish survive is to minimize the time the fish is out of the water. Holding your breath while releasing the fish can be a good reminder that your catch can’t breathe out of the water! Be sure to always use wet hands when handling any fish to minimize damage to their protective slime layer. Dehooking devices can also be used to minimize handling and help reduce the chance of injuring the fish during release. Also, quickly revive your catch by putting it head first into the current to allow oxygenated water to flow over the gills. Practicing these simple catch and release techniques is a great way to take on an active role in bonefish conservation.
For more information about bonefish, visit www.MyFWC.com/fishing.