Changing Tides Fishing Regulations Change as of the New Year
By Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Editorial Assistant
At Ocean Reef, you can catch prize-worthy fish any time of the year, but not all fish are fair game year-round and with the New Year came new fishing regulations. With fishing a popular pastime among locals and visitors, the heavily fished areas of the Upper Keys tend to contain smaller fish and fewer species than areas with less activity. Some fish species have seen overfishing and population decreases over the years. In order to maintain healthy and prosperous fish populations, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made changes to some regulations that went into effect January 1, 2020. Some of those Atlantic rule changes are detailed below.
EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2020
Several grouper species (gag, black, red, yellow mouth, yellowfin, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney and graysby) closed January 1 to recreational and commercial harvest in state waters (extending to three nautical miles) off the Atlantic and Monroe County. The grouper season will reopen on May 1. A similar closure will also occur in Atlantic federal waters.
The recreational bag limit for black fin tuna is now two fish per person or 10 fish per vessel, whichever number is greater, in state and federal waters off Florida.
In state waters, the minimum size limit for recreation harvest of shortfin mako increased from 54 to 83 inches fork length. According to the FWC, shortfin mako is undergoing overfishing. This change in regulation is an effort to help rebuild the population.
Blue & Stone Crab Traps
Fishers ages 16 and older who intend to use blue crab traps in the next year are required to complete a complimentary online recreational trap registration. This registration, which will need to be included on every trap set in the water, is required as of January 1. A separate recreational stone crab trap registration is also required for the 2019 season, which opened October 15.
As of January 2020, there is no minimum size limit for blackfin, queen or silk snappers.
Current Recreational Closures
With so many fish species, it can be difficult to keep track of what is open or closed. Below is a summary of some species currently closed in state waters.
Harvesting season closed:
Red snapper, blueline tilefish (reopens May 1), snowy grouper (reopens May 1), wreckfish (reopens July 1), hogfish (reopens May 1), and shallow-water grouper (includes black, coney, gag, graysby, red, red hind, rock hind, scamp, yellowfin, yellowmouth – reopens May 1).
No state harvest allowed:
Goliath grouper, Nassau grouper, sturgeon, sawfish, longbill spearfish, Mediterranean spearfish, several shark species, manta ray, spotted eagle ray, and queen conch. Note, the above regulations are for the Atlantic only. To see Gulf regulations or learn more, visit myfwc.com, select “Saltwater Fishing,” and then “Recreational Regulations.”