Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in state waters from Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay, must be removed from the water before July 20, the first day of a 10-day trap closure. This closure will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

Traps can be placed back in the water in this area starting on July 30. Until then, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures that occur in 2017 on the Gulf coast of Florida. While state waters extend to 9 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf, the blue crab trap closures include only state waters extending to 3 nautical miles offshore. There are six regional closures total: three in even-numbered years on the east coast and three in odd-numbered years on the west coast.

More information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, regulations and cleanup events is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing” then “Trap Retrieval/Debris Removal”). For additional information, contact the FWC’s trap retrieval coordinator, Pamela Gruver, at 850-487-0554.

Bully netting best practices for harvesters and homeowners

Spiny lobster season is gearing up, and it is not just for divers. Harvesting lobster at night with the use of bully nets and lights is legal and fun, and is popular in the Florida Keys and portions of Miami-Dade County.

By being courteous and respectful of each other, bully netters, homeowners and other members of the public can work together to ensure the season (July 26-27 for the two-day sport season and Aug. 6-March 31, 2018, regular season) is safe and fun. Check out the list of best practices below to learn more about how to make the most of this year’s spiny lobster season.

  • While bully netting is a legal method of harvest, bright lights and loud noise on the water late at night can be disruptive to others such as adjacent homeowners and renters.
  • Bully netters should try to keep lights directed down and avoid shining lights at houses along the shoreline.
  • Sound travels long distances over water; sound levels should be minimized when near shoreline residences.
  • Bully netters have the right to fish. Report any actions taken to prevent you from legally fishing to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
  • Remember, homeowners are concerned about protecting their homes, families and property and may be suspicious of noise and lights near their property.
  • While bully netting may take place close to private property, trespassing on private property is illegal.
  • Fishers should not go onto private property including, but not limited to, private seawalls, docks and boats.
  • If you experience a problem or see a resource violation, don’t take matters into your own hands. Call the Wildlife Alert Hotline (888-404-3922) for assistance.

If you would like postcards with these best practices on them, email your request to Marine@MyFWC.com. Make sure to include in your email your name, mailing address, and the number of postcards you want mailed to you.

For recreational spiny lobster fishing regulations, including how to measure spiny lobster, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”

As a precautionary measure due to a naturally occurring algae bloom in St. Joseph Bay that affects shellfish, the bay scallop harvest originally scheduled to begin on July 25th in Gulf County waters will be temporarily postponed. This postponement includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County. This does not impact other areas currently open for a recreational harvest. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working closely with partners on this postponement including the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which has also issued a precautionary closure for the harvest of clams, mussels and oysters in St. Joseph Bay.

FWC staff is coordinating with the Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and FDACS and they will continue to provide support and assistance as necessary.  All agencies take all algal blooms seriously and will continue to respond quickly and effectively to ensure the health and safety of Floridians, visitors and our natural resources.

The scallop season is expected to be closed a minimum of two weeks. The FWC will conduct aggressive outreach efforts about the postponed season. The FWC and FDACS will continue sampling and testing scallops and other shellfish in the bay to determine when they are safe for consumption and will continue to work with the local community to determine options on the remainder of the season. More information will be issued once a season opening date has been determined and that date will be posted on the bay scallop page which can be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.” Reopenings of clam, mussel or oyster harvest will be listed on the FDACS website at http://shellfish.floridaaquaculture.com/seas/seas_centralgulf.htm.

In areas outside of Gulf County, the bay scallop season in state waters from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County is currently open to harvest and will close to harvest on Sept. 10. All other waters open to harvest (Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River and from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County) will close to harvest Sept. 25 (see map below).

This algae bloom does not harm scallops directly and shouldn’t cause scallop population declines. While scallops may appear healthy, they should not be consumed until FWC has issued a new statement opening the season. This algae bloom should not impact other recreational activities on St. Joseph bay.

ABOUT PSEUDO-NITZSCHIA:

Pseudo-nitzschia is a naturally occurring microscopic alga that in some cases can produce domoic acid, which can negatively impact marine mammals and seabirds and can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) in humans if contaminated shellfish are consumed. Domoic acid has been confirmed in seawater and scallop samples from St. Joseph Bay. Domoic acid does not impact finfish, but they should be carefully cleaned prior to being eaten. The best way to protect yourself is to heed closure warnings and not consume shellfish in the closed areas.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ASP, contact your primary care provider. You may also want to contact the Florida Poison Control Hotline – 1-800-222-1222. For Department of Health questions, please call 850-245-4250.

*(Angler Steve Dial submitted the sixth and largest TrophyCatch bass from Lake Trafford in July. The largemouth lunker weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds, 7 ounces!


Lake Trafford restoration yields great bass fishing

Immokalee area lake restoration leads to production of trophy-sized bass

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has confirmed a 10-pound, 7-ounce largemouth bass was caught on Lake Trafford and approved in the TrophyCatch program. Lake Trafford, in Collier County, has received national recognition for its resurging bass fishing made possible by ongoing restoration projects.

The nearly 26-inch-long largemouth bass was caught by Steve Dial on an artificial lure on June 25. This is the first Trophy Club submission from Lake Trafford into TrophyCatch, FWC’s award-winning catch, document and release program.

While reports of trophy-sized bass catches are less common during the summer, this fish is no fluke. Recent FWC sampling has documented excellent growth rates for abundant bass in Lake Trafford.

“With trophy bass reported more frequently around the spawning season, I’m really excited for what the coming season may produce,” said Barron Moody, FWC regional fisheries administrator. “We can also confirm the presence of an even larger bass in the lake – our biologists tagged and released a bass weighing more than 11 pounds during routine sampling as part of our trophy bass tagging study.”

Highlighted in Bassmaster Magazine in August 2016, 1,500-acre Lake Trafford’s history of devastating fish kills and unhealthy habitat is no more. It can now boast of quality populations of black crappie and largemouth bass – all thanks to a partnership between the determined citizens of Collier County, the South Florida Water Management District – Big Cypress Basin, the FWC and others.

For more information, email Barron Moody at Barron.Moody@MyFWC.com.

Do you know when the peak deer rut occurs in your area?

The FWC has been collecting biological data since 2009 from white-tailed deer to estimate the breeding dates for deer across the state. These data have been used to inform management decisions regarding hunting season dates and location of zonal lines. The data also provides local information on peak breeding of white-tailed deer in Florida.

In northern deer ranges, the duration of the rut is short and doesn’t vary much from area to area or from year to year.  In the southeast, where the timing of fawning is not as tied to the seasons, deer breeding activity is more variable. However, in no other state does the peak breeding vary as much as it does in Florida; from July in south Florida to February in northwest Florida.

We will continue to collect white-tailed deer breeding chronology data in areas where it’s lacking and update maps as additional information is collected.

*(Click any of the maps to enlarge them)

Hunter safety courses offered in 4 counties 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety courses in four counties (list follows).

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16, at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

Internet-completion Courses

Broward

Aug. 19 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Aug. 27 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

Hendry

Aug. 5 (8 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

Monroe

Aug. 6 (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

Palm Beach

Aug. 20 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)


Traditional Course

Palm Beach

Aug. 19-20 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)


Bowhunting course offered in Palm Beach County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering a free bowhunting course in Palm Beach County.

All classroom materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil, paper and all bowhunting equipment they have. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies bowhunter safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

Traditional Bowhunting Course

Palm Beach County

Aug. 12 (7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

The specific locations for these classes will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in West Palm Beach at 561-625-5122.

*(Photo courtesy of One More Cast Guide Service)

Do you fish for spotted seatrout? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has been hearing concerns from anglers about the spotted seatrout population and wants to know what you are seeing.

At these workshops, FWC staff will discuss current stock assessment results and whether fishers are happy with management of this species or if further restrictions are appropriate. Workshops have already been held in Carrabelle, Panama City, Pensacola and Cedar Key.

Upcoming workshops, including two additions in Steinhatchee and Tallahassee, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. local time:


  • Aug. 1: Crystal River, City Council Chambers, 123 NW Highway 19.
  • Aug. 2: St. Petersburg, FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 Eighth Ave. SE.
  • Aug. 3: Naples, South Regional Library, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway.
  • Aug. 7: Jacksonville, Jacksonville Public Library Southeast, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd.
  • Aug. 8: Melbourne, Brevard County Government Center, Space Coast Room, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way.
  • Aug. 9: Fort Pierce, St. Lucie Commission Chambers, Third Floor Meeting Room 303, 2300 Virginia Ave.
  • NEW: Aug. 16: Steinhatchee, Community Center, 1013 Riverside Drive.
  • NEW: Aug. 17: Tallahassee, LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library, Program Room B, 200 W. Park Ave.

Feedback from these workshops will help staff determine whether or not further management restrictions are needed to provide the public with the fishing experience they want for this species.

If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, submit comments online by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. Additional details and updates for these meetings will be posted at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops”).

At its July meeting in Orlando, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several management changes for gray triggerfish caught in Gulf of Mexico state waters including a limited fall season and several conservation measures.

“By approving this limited season and conservation measures, we are hoping to balance harvest opportunities for recreational anglers with continued rebuilding of this species,” said Commissioner Mike Sole.

Due to the 2016 federal quota being exceeded, the Gulf recreational gray triggerfish season was closed in state and federal waters for all of 2017. At a previous FWC meeting, the Commission expressed interest in potentially opening a fall 2017 season. After considering public testimony at the July 2017 meeting, the Commission directed staff to issue an executive order to reopen the fishery for a limited season this fall. Staff will issue another press release once the season has been determined. The season will also be posted online and will be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish.”

Approved federal consistency changes include (to go into effect only after federal regulations go into effect, likely sometime in 2018):

  • Decreasing the recreational daily bag limit from two to one fish per person.
  • Increasing the recreational size limit from 14 to 15 inches fork length.
  • Creating a January through February annual recreational closure in addition to the current June through July annual spawning closure.

These federal consistency measures should help maintain fishing opportunities for gray triggerfish in state and federal waters for 2018 and the future. The effective date for these changes will be posted online and will be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish.”

For more information on these changes or to view the presentations given at the Commission meeting, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”

At its July meeting in Orlando, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved lengthening the Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties by opening the season Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. The Commission also approved changing the gag grouper commercial minimum size limit in Gulf state waters from 22 to 24 inches. This size limit change is consistent with pending federal regulations.

For the gag grouper recreational season, state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties are currently open from April 1 through June 30. The FWC received stakeholder requests for a longer season that would make fishing opportunities in the four-county area more comparable with the rest of the Gulf, where there is a seven-month season that runs June 1 through Dec. 31.

“The regional management of this species has been a success story. Anglers have been able to fish for this species during more desired times of the year while still promoting conservation,” said Chairman Brian Yablonski. “We are excited that we can offer these additional fishing opportunities to Florida’s anglers.”

The current April 1 through June 30 season will remain in place and the fall season from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 will be in place in time for anglers to participate this year.

For more information or to view the presentations given at the Commission meeting, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”

At its July meeting in Orlando, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed several draft changes to the management of sheepshead, tripletail and cobia. The Commission did not take action on draft changes to sheepshead and tripletail in order to give staff time to gather more input from commercial and recreational stakeholders on potential changes. These two fisheries will be brought back as a draft proposal at a future Commission meeting.

Cobia draft changes were approved and will be brought back before the Commission at the September meeting for a final public hearing. These changes are based on species biology, input from stakeholders, and will promote the continued sustainable management of this fishery.

Cobia

Draft rule changes for cobia to be brought back before the Commission in September for a final public hearing include:

  • Creating a Gulf/Atlantic management boundary defining all state waters north of the Monroe-Collier county line as “Gulf state waters” for purposes of managing cobia.
  • Increasing the minimum size limit in Gulf state waters from 33 to 38 inches fork length.
  • Making the recreational and commercial bag limits in Gulf state waters the same by reducing the commercial trip limit from two to one fish per person.
  • Reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit in Gulf state waters from six to two per vessel per day.

To comment on these proposals, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments or email Marine@MyFWC.com.

For more information on these discussions or to view the presentations given at the Commission meeting, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”