JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you aim to wet a line more this year that the previous, or if you are an avid angler already, here’s a look at the changes to FWC regulations that go into effect Jan. 1.
Grouper closures beginning Jan 1st in Gulf and Atlantic waters
Gag grouper will close to recreational harvest in Gulf state and federal waters Jan. 1, 2020. The same day, several species of grouper will also close to recreational and commercial harvest in Florida state waters of the Atlantic and all state waters off Monroe County. This Atlantic seasonal closure includes gag, black, red, yellowmouth, and yellowfin grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby. A similar closure will also occur in Atlantic federal waters.
For gag grouper, state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties will reopen to harvest April 1 through June 30 and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. All other Gulf state waters (except waters off Monroe County, which follows the Atlantic state season) and all Gulf federal waters will reopen June 1 through Dec. 31.
In the Atlantic and state waters of Monroe County, several species of grouper, including gag, will reopen May 1.
Grouper information, including Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico grouper regulations, is available online. Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing” then “Recreational Regulations” and “Groupers.”
2020 Gulf County bay scallop season dates set
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set the 2020 bay scallop season in Gulf County (including St. Joseph Bay) via Executive Order to open Aug. 16, 2020, and remain open through Sept. 24, 2020, closing Sept. 25.
This season was set after working closely with the local community and allows the FWC to balance stakeholder and community desires for a high-quality scalloping season in late summer and fall with the sustainability of the resource.
Blue Crab Traps must now be registered
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, recreational fishers age 16 and older (including those normally exempt from needing a license) are required to complete an online, no-cost recreational blue crab trap registration before using blue crab traps.
A recreational stone crab trap registration is also required before using stone crab traps.
To register, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com and add the Recreational Blue Crab Trap Registration or the Recreational Stone Crab Trap Registration to your account.
Upon completion, each person will receive a series of five unique trap registration numbers, one for each of the five traps the person may fish under the recreational blue crab fishing regulations. Each trap placed in the water must be marked with one of these registration numbers along with the owner’s full name and address. Registration numbers for blue crab traps will begin with the letter “B.” This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.
This no-cost registration will allow FWC to collect important information about these recreational fisheries that is needed for future stock assessments and management decisions.
St Johns River Blue Crab trap closure cancelled this year
The blue crab trap closure scheduled for Jan. 16-25, 2020, in all waters of the St. Johns River system has been cancelled. Recreational and commercial blue crab traps may remain in the water during this period.
This cancellation is due to reports of a lack of derelict traps in the area.
Blackfin Tuna and Shortfin Mako shark changes
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the recreational limit for blackfin tuna will be two fish per person or 10 fish per vessel, whichever is greater, in state and federal waters off Florida.
Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the minimum size limit for recreational harvest of shortfin mako will increase from 54 to 83 inches fork length in Florida state waters.
Shortfin mako is overfished and undergoing overfishing, and these measures are a part of ongoing international efforts to help rebuild the resource for a sustainable fishery in the future.
Lane Snapper reopens
Recreational and commercial harvest of lane snapper in Gulf state and federal waters will reopen Jan. 1. Lane snapper was closed Dec. 13-31 as a result of the federal quota being exceeded.
Spotted Seatrout in SW Florida remains catch-and-release through May 31st
Spotted seatrout will remain catch-and-release through May 31, 2020, in waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. This includes all waters of Tampa Bay. Red drum and snook are also included in these red tide-related catch-and-release measures.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several rule changes for spotted seatrout at its December Commission meeting that will go into effect across the state Feb. 1, 2020, but these new rule changes do not replace the current catch-and-release only measures in southwest Florida.
Spotted seatrout will remain catch-and-release only in that region through May 31, 2020, even after the new statewide regulations go into effect Feb. 1.
The Commission plans to discuss the catch-and-release measures for southwest Florida at its February meeting and may consider reopening snook early.