As we reported in August, some of Florida’s most popular recreational fish might soon be receiving new levels of protection from the state – including the possibility of a new catch-and-release-only designation that would strictly prohibit harvest of any kind.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be hosting two webinars next month -- on Dec. 10 and Dec. 12 -- to gather public input regarding the creation of new saltwater “sport fish” and game fish designations.
The meetings are being held strictly to discuss the idea of these proposals, says FWC public information specialist Amanda Nalley – not to talk about specific species inclusions.
“While we may have some species that might be a good fit for these designations,” Nalley tells Sport Fishing, “we are not officially selecting them to fit in those designations at this time.”
That would not happen – if at all – until well later in 2013. For now, it’s simply about discussing the proposed categories.
Most anglers are already familiar with the rules governing game fish designations, which has always been regarded as a boon to recreational fishing. Essentially, this category prohibits all commercial harvest, possession or sale, and in a draft rule outlining the new proposals, FWC lists snook, red drum and spotted seatrout as potential candidates for this designation, should it be deemed appropriate.
The new “sport fish” category, however, would be a novelty, the first of its kind. It would provide “a higher level of protection than game fish by including no recreational harvest as well as no commercial harvest, possession or sale and targeting sport fish only with hook and line,” according to the FWC website.
Basically, it is a strict catch-and-release proposal.
Tarpon, bonefish, permit and billfish – species that, for the most part, are already regularly released by anglers -- are listed as possibilities for this new category in FWC’s draft plan.
But of course, at this point, it's all simply conjecture.
“Who knows,” says Nalley, “the public might think that tarpon should be a game fish, or not on the list at all.”
In either case, the discussions begin in two weeks with public analysis of whether the designations are warranted. Then a final decision will be made during a February commission meeting and public hearing in Orlando, Florida.
If approved, “we will then, at future meetings, look at what species to include in each designation,” Nalley says.
We’d also like to hear your thoughts below – how do you feel about a new, catch-and-release “sport fish” designation for some of Florida’s favorite recreational species?