Hogfish recreational harvest will close in federal waters off Florida’s Atlantic and southern Gulf coasts Aug. 24, but state waters will remain open. Commercial harvest will also close Aug. 24 in both state and federal waters south of Cape Sable and up the Atlantic coast. Several other management changes will go into effect the same date, including a new management boundary between the Keys/east Florida and Gulf stocks.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will consider consistency with the early federal recreational season closure at the Sept. 27-28 Commission meeting in Okeechobee.

The new management boundary will be at 25 degrees 9 minutes north latitude (a line due west of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida). In Florida starting Aug. 24, hogfish in the Gulf of Mexico north of Cape Sable will be managed as Gulf hogfish, and hogfish south of that line, around the Florida Keys and up the Atlantic coast, will be managed as Atlantic hogfish. This new management boundary line is closer to where Gulf and Atlantic hogfish stocks naturally separate as determined by a recent genetic study.

Several other changes to state hogfish management measures take effect on Aug. 24. These changes are:

  • Lowering the Atlantic recreational daily bag limit from five to one fish per harvester.
  • Setting an Atlantic recreational harvest season of May 1 through Oct. 31.
  • Increasing the Atlantic recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 16 inches fork length.
  • Increasing the Gulf recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 14 inches fork length.
  • Setting the minimum importation and sale size limit to 14 inches fork length statewide.

Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.

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The Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will be open for harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

This new fall season was approved at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) July meeting and is in addition to the April 1 through June 30 season that already takes place off these four counties.

“Gag grouper management off the state of Florida is a prime example of how regional management can successfully provide fishing opportunities while continuing to promote conservation,” said Jessica McCawley, director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management.

The season for all other Gulf state and federal waters is June 1 through Dec. 31.

The minimum size limit for gag grouper is 24 inches total length, and the daily bag limit is two fish per harvester within the four fish aggregate bag limit. Charter captains and crew have a zero bag limit.

Missed the recent in-person spotted seatrout workshops? Attend online by participating in an on-demand virtual workshop. Learn more about the current stock assessment of this species and tell the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) how you’d like to see this fishery managed in the future.

This newly-added online feature can be found on the public workshops page at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Public Comments/Workshops” and “Workshops.” Once you’ve viewed the workshop, submit your comments online at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

FWC staff hosted a total of 12 in-person workshops throughout the state in July and August to gather public input.

Staff will be discussing input and potential future changes to the management of this species at the Sept. 28 Commission meeting in Okeechobee.

A goliath grouper virtual workshop and survey is also online on the public workshops page link above.

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”).