The Florida Wildlife Commission has some radical new rule changes for Gulf of Mexico recreational anglers. The first change is gear requirements for bottom fishermen in the Gulf. Every angler will have to use non-stainless steel circle hooks, have an approved hook de-gorger and a venting tool on board while fishing.
The circles hook deal may lead to a little frustration for anglers since one size doesn’t fit all. Thin wire circles are effective for a wide variety of fish and fish sizes. They tend to get straighten out at about 30 to 50 pounds of pressure and do tend to break at times. The mid-size wire circles are stronger, but the gap tolerance is a bit more critical. A 2/0 or 3/0 thin wire circle will work for most snapper but may be too light for grouper over thirty pounds. A 5/0 or 6/0 medium wire circle will handle most grouper, but is a bit heavy for most snapper baits. So every angler will need to have a fairly good variety of pretty pricy hooks.
The hook de-gorger or hook remover is more of a pain because you should have at least two on your boat incase you lose one over board. Per the FWC new red snapper regulations this is the description of the hook remover, “At least one dehooking device is required as well and must be used to remove hooks embedded in Gulf reef fish with minimum damage. The dehooking device must be constructed to allow the hook to be secured and the barb shielded without re-engaging during the removal process. It must be blunt and all edges rounded, and it must be of a size appropriate to secure the range of hook sizes and styles used in the Gulf reef fish fishery.” Source: myfwc.com Hopefully the FWC won’t get too carried away with the barb shielding part since you will be removing circle hooks.
The venting tool is something that is a good idea that will have little positive impact. The venting tool is just a hypodermic needle used to release expanded gas from fish brought up from the depths. One of my marine biologist buddies said the survival rate of fish vented by professionals is about fifty percent due to infection at the wound. The deeper the fish is caught the lower the survival rate. So this is a warm and fuzzy regulation, but at least the fish will sink to the bottom. Out of sight out of mind if you will, seems to be the purpose of this regulation. As with the de-hooker you may want a couple on the boat just in case.
“At least one venting tool is also required and must be used to deflate the swimbladders of Gulf reef fish to help release the fish with minimum damage. This tool must be a sharpened, hollow instrument, such as a hypodermic syringe with the plunger removed or a 16-gauge needle fixed to a hollow wooden dowel. A tool such as a knife or an ice-pick may not be used. The venting tool must be inserted into the fish at a 45-degree angle approximately 1 to 2 inches from the base of the pectoral fin and be inserted just deep enough to release the gases so that the fish may be released with minimum damage.” Source: myfwc.com
In addition to the gear changes, the recreational bag limit is reduced from four fish to two, captains and crew of for hire vessels will have a zero daily bag limit and the minimum size for commercial harvested fish is reduced from 15 inches to 13 inches.
That final change, reduction from 15 to 13 is a head scratcher for me. First anyone keeping a 13 inch red snapper is getting in touch with his Michael Jackson side. Second no respectable charter captain would keep fish that small for fear of being laughed off the dock. It is never good when people point and laugh, especially at the cleaning table.
“No change will be made to the April 15 through Oct. 31 Gulf recreational red snapper harvest season in state waters. However, new federal rules establish a June 1 through Sept. 30 recreational harvest season in Gulf federal waters adjacent to Florida waters.” Source: myfwc.com This comment in the regulation announcement seems to mean a short Red Snapper season is coming soon since the State tries to mirror the Federal laws. There are more changes coming for the Gulf recreational fishery. Be smart and check regulation changes often.
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