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.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic in Panama City Beach on July 22 and an Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinic for both women and men 18 years or older on July 23.

The free, day-long clinics are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at St. Andrews State Park, 4607 State Park Lane, Panama City Beach.

Advance registration is required. To register or for more information, email Heather Sneed at Heather.Sneed@MyFWC.com, or call 850-487-0554.

Participants will take home a lifelong hobby and leave with a new appreciation for the marine environment. They will learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills, safety and the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems in a fun, laid-back atmosphere.

Lessons include knot tying, cast netting, rod and reel rigging, how to be a responsible marine resource steward, marine fish and habitat identification, catch-and-release techniques and more.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their newly learned skills by fishing from shore or a pier. This event is a catch-and-release activity. All participants must have a valid recreational saltwater fishing license unless exempt. Saltwater fishing licenses can be purchased at your local tackle shop or online. Learn more by visiting MyFWC.com/License.

Fishing equipment and bait are provided during the clinic but participants are encouraged to bring their own gear.

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in state waters from the Palm Beach-Broward county line to the Pasco-Hernando county line must be removed from the water before July 10, 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 may be placed back in the water in this area starting on July 20. 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 will 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. Coastal waters from Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay, will close to traps July 20-29 (see map). 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.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has scheduled an additional public workshop, to be held July 31 in Lake Worth, to gather public input on goliath grouper management, including the possibility of a limited harvest in Florida state waters.

Fifteen workshops are scheduled in total across the state in August and October, including the July 31 event. Share your input and learn more about the current status of goliath grouper by attending one of these workshops.

Workshops will be from 5 to 8 p.m. local time:

  • July 31: Lake Worth, Lantana Road Branch Library, 4020 Lantana Road.
  • Aug. 1: Key West, Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel, 3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
  • Aug. 2: Marathon, Hyatt Place Marathon/Florida Keys, 1996 Overseas Highway.
  • Aug. 3: Key Largo, Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Highway.
  • Aug. 8: Crystal River, Plantation on Crystal River, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail.
  • Aug. 9: Carrabelle, Franklin County Senior Citizens Center, 201 NW Ave. F.
  • Aug 16: Pensacola, Sanders Beach – Corinne Jones Resource Center, 913 S. I St.
  • Aug. 17: Panama City, Bland Conference Center, 4750 Collegiate Drive.
  • Oct. 9: Jacksonville, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd.
  • Oct. 10: Titusville, American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, 6350 Horizon Drive.
  • Oct. 11: Stuart, Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave.
  • Oct. 12: Davie, Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road.
  • Oct. 16: Pinellas Park, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, 9501 U.S. Highway 19 N.
  • Oct. 17: Port Charlotte, The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St.
  • Oct. 18: Naples, Collier County Public Library – South Regional, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway.

If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, submit comments online by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. Staff is working on a virtual workshop that should be available online in the near future. Additional details and updates to these meetings will be posted at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”) 

Teaching children a lifelong hobby, instilling appreciation for our marine environment and providing fun, family outings are the objectives for the Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Palm Coast on July 15.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will offer a free Kids’ Fishing Clinic for children between the ages of 5 and 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at Bing’s Landing County Park, 5862 N. Oceanshore Blvd.

These free clinics enable young people to learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills and safety. In addition, environmental displays will offer participants a unique chance to experience Florida’s marine life firsthand.

Kids’ Fishing Clinics strive to achieve several goals, but the main objective is to create responsible marine-resource stewards by teaching children about the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems. In addition, organizers hope to teach fundamental saltwater fishing skills and provide participants a positive fishing experience.

Fishing equipment and bait are provided for kids to use during the clinic, but organizers encourage children who own fishing tackle to bring it. A limited number of rods and reels will be given away to participants upon completion of the clinic.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their new skills and fish from the pier. This event is a photo catch-and-release activity. An adult must accompany all participants.

Individuals or companies interested in helping sponsor this event or volunteering at the clinic should contact Mike Vickers at 386-569-9674 or FWC’s Elizabeth Winchester at 850-617-9644.

To find out more about fishing clinics for kids, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select the “Youth & Student” option under “Education.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in eight counties in August. (List follows.)

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

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.


The dates and times are:

  • Baker
    Aug. 19 (8 a.m. to noon) Macclenny and (1 p.m. until complete) Lake City
  • Bradford
    Aug. 10 (6 to 9 p.m.) Starke and
    Aug. 12 (8 a.m. until complete) Graham
  • Citrus
    Aug. 26 (9 a.m. until complete) Lecanto
  • Clay
    Aug. 3 (6 to 9 p.m.) Middleburg and
    Aug. 5 (8 a.m. until complete) Graham 
  • Duval
    Aug. 3 (6 to 9 p.m.) and
    Aug. 5 (8:30 a.m. until complete) 
    Jacksonville
  • Levy
    Aug. 5 (8:30 a.m. until complete) Chiefland
  • Nassau
    Aug. 4 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Aug. 5 (8 to 11 a.m.) Yulee
  • Taylor
    Aug. 5 (8 a.m. until complete) Perry

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 Lake City at 386-758-0525.

Florida bowhunters will have an opportunity to attend a National Bowhunter Education Foundation certified bowhunter education course in August in Alachua County.

The course will take place Aug. 26 in Newberry at 8 a.m. The specific location for the class will be given to those who register in advance.

The course is conducted using the online, distance learning format. A bowhunting enthusiast accesses the program on the NBEF website by entering through the Florida portal and completing the online classroom topics before attending a shortened, interactive field day. The Florida course is found at Bowhunter-ed.com/Florida.

“While these courses do not satisfy the hunter education requirements for Florida, they are educational, informative and well worth taking,” said Steve Robbins, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hunter safety coordinator in Lake City.

Participants can expect to learn all aspects of bowhunting, including:

  • History of bowhunting.
  • Safe and responsible bowhunting.
  • Know your bow and arrow.
  • Preparing for the hunt.
  • Shot placement and game recovery.
  • Use of elevated stands and other techniques.
  • Outdoor preparedness.

Participants must bring their own equipment, including bow and field-tipped arrows. Students should register for the course they choose by calling the FWC’s North Central Regional Office at 386-754-1654 or by visiting MyFWC.com/Bowhunt. Students of all ages may participate.

Questions about the class can be directed to the FWC North Central Regional Office at 386-754-1654.

Media contact: Katie Purcell, 850-459-6585 or Katie.Purcell@MyFWC.com

Anglers can take advantage of more Gulf red snapper fishing starting this weekend

This Friday, June 16, begins the first weekend of an additional 39-day season for recreational red snapper fishing in Gulf federal waters and changes to the state season. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced these expanded fishing opportunities today, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) followed with an executive order setting the updated season in state waters.

The 39-day season is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Friday, June 16, through Monday, Sept. 4. Also included are Monday and Tuesday, July 3 and 4, and Monday, Sept. 4.

“Recreational red snapper fishing is highly important to Florida’s Gulf coast communities,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “We are thankful for the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, U. S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Florida’s Congressional delegation as well as the partnership across all five Gulf states in providing more sustainable fishing opportunities and sound fisheries management.”

This is the longest Gulf federal red snapper season since 2013. State waters will be open the rest of this week and, beginning Monday, June 19, will close Mondays through Thursdays through Sept. 4, except July 3 and 4. The three-day weekend federal waters season opens Friday, June 16.

“Though we had to reduce state waters fishing days in the summer and fall, we are pleased to be able to offer more fishing access this summer to anglers across Florida,” Wiley said.

“This is great news, especially for anglers on the central and southwest Gulf coast, where red snapper are not commonly found in state waters,” said FWC Vice Chairman Liesa Priddy.

For more information about red snapper and other Florida fishing opportunities, visit MyFWC.com and click on “Gulf red snapper season news.”