The Ever-Changing Fishing Regulations

By  //  April 13, 2012

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What Can I Legally Harvest?

BREVARD COUNTY • PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Due to today’s constantly evolving conservation efforts, one of the main concerns on a sportsman’s mind is “what can I legally harvest?”

It seems every day this question becomes increasingly more complex. Even those who fish for a living are having trouble keeping up with the rapidly changing regulations, while ordinary anglers are being required to become “students” of a perpetually moving target. Before hitting the Ocean, it is very important to review these changes through the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) website.

There are a few new regulations you should know when fishing East Central Florida.

Black Sea Bass

These sporty fighters with a healthy appetite are the latest species to fall victim to the NOAA Fisheries over-regulation. As of October 17, 2011, harvesting of the Black Sea Bass has been prohibited in State and Federal Waters.  The fishery will reopen June 1, 2012, but may have additional regulations.

On March 23, 2012, NOAA has proposed Amendment 18A. This legislation is designed to implement management measures that would optimize fishing opportunities for black sea bass. Included in this is an increase to the recreational minimum size limit from 12 inches total length (TL) to 13 inches TL. This amendment is currently in the public comment period, which ends April 23rd.

Shallow Water Grouper

A seasonal prohibition on the harvest of shallow water grouper species in the south Atlantic is from January1, 2012, through April 30, 2012. This includes gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, rock hind, red hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, and tiger grouper.

Vermillion Snapper

As of March 31st, anglers can add vermillion snapper to their catch. Since the closure in November 2011, the size limit of 12” TL and 5 per person bag limit has remained the same.

Red Snapper

The Red Snapper remains closed for harvest indefinitely. I will update whenever information is released.

Other Regulations

As of March 3, 2011, the use of non-stainless steel circle hooks has been required on any vessel using hook and line gear targeting allowed grouper, snapper, or sea bass. It is now illegal to possess these species without possessing the proper circle hooks. This requirement is being implemented through the final rule for Amendment 17A, which is an attempt to reduce by catch mortality of incidentally caught, non-target fish species.

In addition to the circle hooks, anglers on all vessels fishing for reef fish in the Atlantic are required to possess and use a dehooking device to remove hooks with minimal damage.

Although these new regulations are present, it is wise to consistently check for updates in the future. Lets face it, spending a few minutes reviewing changed regulations is much cheaper than a ticket.