SECTION A
Information from FWC

FWC UPDATE — Notes on Fishing Rules and other announcements

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (a/k/a FWC) keeps us up to date on changes that fishermen (cruising-fishermen included) should know, and other items of interest to boating people. As the audience is somewhat varied, we give a quick note on the news and suggest that those interested in specific topics check it all out at the FWC web site.

There's also information on boating, parks, ramps, etc., etc. and we'll hope to include news on anything we think you'll want to know about.

FWC's web site is www.MyFWC.com

NEW JUNE 2012
FWC Commissioners open Roundscale Spearfish for Harvest

Billfish anglers will no longer need to question whether the fish they just boated is a white marlin or the similar-looking and once-prohibited roundscale spearfish.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to allow harvest of the species in Florida state waters at its May 2-3 Commission meeting.

This change includes adding roundscale spearfish to the one-billfish bag and possession limit and the creation of a 66-inch minimum size limit when measured from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail.

Roundscale spearfish harvest has been prohibited in state waters since 1999 because the fish rarely comes into Florida waters. State waters are from shore to three miles in the Atlantic and from shore to nine miles in the Gulf. Federal waters begin where state waters end. But the fish is often confused with white marlin. Genetic testing of tournament entries along the Atlantic coast shows that about 19 percent of tournament-winning white marlin were actually roundscale spearfish.

Federal fishery managers allowed roundscale spearfish harvest in federal waters off the coast of Florida but considered roundscale spearfish to be the same species as white marlin. Recently, the NOAA Highly Migratory Species Division, the group that makes federal management plans for species such as roundscale spearfish, determined the fish was a separate species and began managing it as such.

These federal and state changes will increase the amount of data collected on roundscale spearfish, helping the FWC and NOAA better understand the species and its role in our waters.

Angling for billfish? The best way to tell the difference between a white marlin and a roundscale spearfish is to measure the distance between the front edge of the fish’s anal fin (located on the underside of the fish, near the tail) to the vent. The distance between the anal fin and the vent is longer on a roundscale spearfish than it is on a white marlin.

The scales in the middle of the fish’s body are also different on the two species, with the roundscale’s being coarser in texture than those of a white marlin.

NEW JUNE 2012
FWC Commissioners set 2012 recreational red snapper season in the Gulf

The 2012 recreational red snapper season in Gulf of Mexico state waters will be June 1 through July 10, a total of 40 days.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set the 2012 season Wednesday, May 2, at the Commission meeting in Crystal River.

The state season is the same as the recently announced federal recreational red snapper season. The Commission also voted to keep a 40-day, June 1 through July 10 season regardless of whether the federal season is further shortened. Florida state waters in the Gulf extend out to nine nautical miles from shore; federal waters extend beyond that line.

Gulf red snapper stocks are rebuilding their numbers, but the stock needs higher numbers of older fish to be sustainable. Red snapper are estimated to live more than 50 years, but most fish in the current stock are only a few years old. Older fish are the key to rebuilding the population because older female red snapper produce more eggs than younger females. Shortening the fishing season in Gulf state waters and going consistent with the federal season will help continue to rebuild red snapper populations so that more red snapper fishing opportunities will be possible in the future.

“I think consistency is important,” said Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “The positive part is, looking at the recovery, we are going in the right direction in having long-term benefits for fishermen.”

More information about red snapper fishing is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing.

NEW JUNE 2012
New manatee protection zones coming to Flagler County

Flagler County is getting new manatee protection zones, which may already be in effect, at least from now through Sept. 7 once signs are posted.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked closely with Flagler County and other stakeholders to establish zones on the Intracoastal Waterway that will improve manatee protection while limiting the impact on local businesses and boaters.

The Commissioners approved the new manatee conservation measure, which had been published and also discussed at a Feb. 29 public hearing in Bunnell.

“In summer, when the new manatee protection zones are in effect, the time needed for a boater to travel the entire length of the Intracoastal Waterway in Flagler County will increase by about 15 minutes,” said Kipp Frohlich, leader of the FWC’s Imperiled Species section.

There will be 2.7 miles of slow-speed zones on the 18.6 miles of Intracoastal Waterway channel within the county.
Manatee protection zones will be posted in these areas:

  • near Hammock Dunes Parkway Bridge in Palm Coast;
  • near Flagler Beach from the Highway 100 bridge to the Silver Lake area, including the Lehigh Canal; and
  • in the vicinity of Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area.

Summer months are when manatees are most likely to be found in the Intracoastal Waterway in Flagler County, and that is also the time when increased boat traffic presents a greater risk of injury to manatees. As a result, the manatee protection zones in Flagler County will be in effect annually from May 1 through Sept. 7, to include Labor Day.

NEW JUNE 2012
Atlantic snook and Gulf amberjack close in state waters

The recreational harvest of snook in Atlantic state and federal waters and of greater amberjack in Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters closes June 1.

Snook will reopen for harvest in Atlantic federal, state and inland waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, Sept. 1. Snook remains closed for harvest in Gulf of Mexico state waters including Everglades National Park and Monroe County through Aug. 31. A stock assessment on snook will be presented to the FWC Commission at its June 27-28 meeting in West Palm Beach.

Greater amberjack will reopen for harvest in Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters Aug. 1.
State waters in the Atlantic extend from shore to three nautical miles and in the Gulf from shore to nine nautical miles.
Seasonal harvest closures protect Florida’s valuable snook and greater amberjack populations and help sustain and improve the fishery for the future.

Learn more about recreational fishing at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater” and “Recreational Regulations.”

NEW JUNE 2012 
Gulf of Mexico red snapper season begins June 1

The 2012 Gulf of Mexico red snapper recreational harvest season begins June 1 in state and federal waters. The last day of the 40-day season is July 10.

This year’s state season, which is the same as the 2012 federal recreational red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico, was set in May at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting.

Florida state waters in the Gulf extend from shore to nine nautical miles; federal waters extend beyond that line to 200 nautical miles.

The Gulf red snapper stock is improving, but the population still needs an increase in the number of older fish for it to be sustainable. Red snapper are estimated to live more than 50 years, but the current stock consists primarily of fish that are only a few years old. Older fish are the key to rebuilding the population because older female red snapper produce more eggs than younger females. This season will help continue to rebuild the red snapper population so that more red snapper fishing opportunities will be possible in the future.

More information about red snapper fishing is available online.

NEW JUNE 2012
FWC approves ordinance for anchoring/mooring pilot program

Early in May in Crystal River, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved, with one contingency, the city of St. Petersburg’s proposed boating ordinance for the anchoring and mooring pilot program coordinated by the FWC.

Local governments for the five communities participating in the pilot program are responsible for soliciting public input and adopting local ordinances within their jurisdictions. These ordinances must be approved by the FWC and will continue to be evaluated by the FWC and the Legislature. Since June 2011, when the final participant was selected for the program, FWC staff has been attending the sites’ public-input meetings to provide information on the pilot program.

“The city of St. Petersburg’s ordinance addresses local issues related to anchoring and mooring in the area, such as navigational safety, protecting marine infrastructure, promoting public access and deterring improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “It also specifies penalties for violating the regulations.”

The ordinance prohibits hazardous vessels from anchoring in city of St. Petersburg waterways and prohibits any vessel from anchoring in a manner that would cause a navigational hazard or interfere with other vessels. It also restricts any vessel from anchoring within 200 feet of any marina or any publicly owned boat ramp. Anchoring is also prohibited in the Port of St. Petersburg, Central Yacht Basin and South Yacht Basin.

Commissioners discussed, asked questions and heard public comment, ultimately approving the ordinance with the contingency suggested by staff that no vessel shall anchor in Bayboro Harbor for more than 10 days out of any 30-day period. With this approval, the city can make the required changes and adopt the ordinance to make it effective. All ordinances adopted under the pilot program expire on July 1, 2014, unless re-enacted by the Legislature.

Public meetings have also been held in the other four participant sites: Monroe County, in coordination with the cities of Marathon and Key West; Stuart, in coordination with Martin County; and the city of Sarasota. The ordinances for St. Augustine have already been approved, and the developing ordinances from the remaining areas will be presented at future Commission meetings.

The goal of the anchoring and mooring pilot program is to explore potential options for regulating the anchoring or mooring of non-live-aboard vessels outside the boundaries of public mooring fields. The FWC’s role is to provide consultation and technical assistance on the issues. For more information on the pilot program, visit MyFWC.com/Boating or call 850-488-5600.

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