Balancing the needs and wants of our saltwater fishermen with resource protection that will last well into the future is a constant challenge for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This may mean tough decisions such as limiting harvest in an effort to rebuild that species for future anglers. But these difficult decisions can lead to great rewards, and increased fishing opportunities as we have recently seen. Thanks to years of successful management strategies, the Commission was able to increase fishing opportunities for red drum and spotted seatrout in state waters.
Nearly two million saltwater anglers live and visit Florida’s 2,276 miles of coastline. Increases to daily bag limits and the elimination of closed seasons not only allow for better fishing opportunities, they also provide economic opportunities. Recreational saltwater fishing in the state of Florida has an annual economic impact of $5.7 billion. Bait and tackle shops, charter fishermen, hotels and restaurants are just a few of the businesses that benefit from the increased opportunities as more anglers flock to the Fishing Capital of the World.
The state has been managing red drum and spotted seatrout since the late 1980s through conservation measures such as bag and size limits, harvest seasons and gear limitations. The effectiveness of these tools are reflected in the populations of red drum and spotted seatrout. In the span of 20 years, red drum numbers have not only met our goals, but have been consistently exceeding them in the northeast and northwest areas of the state, where the bag limit was increased from one to two fish. Spotted seatrout numbers are also meeting our goals and are doing exceptionally well in the northeast region of the state, where the daily bag limit was increased from five to six fish. Florida’s healthy red drum and seatrout populations are great examples of how the right mix of management tools can result in increased fishing opportunities.
As government agencies impose strict regulations to reduce harvest pressure and rebuild stocks, recreational and commercial fishers may be forced to take cuts or even the temporary closure of a fishery. While such management decisions are difficult for both fishers and related industries, adherence to the regulations leads to healthier fisheries and increased future opportunities. Easing the regulations when science supports such a decision is what should be done. That’s management success!
Chairman, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.