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April 14, 2011

Florida redfish rule change put on hold

Florida Fish And Wildlife Commission puts redfish bag limit rule on hold to obtain updated stock assessment. Final action will be taken in November

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) placed the proposed redfish rule amendments on hold until their November Commission meeting. CCA Florida is opposed to the increase in bag limit and urged the FWC to wait until they received the most updated assessment on redfish which is due later this year.

"Florida's redfish fishery is so valuable and important that a few more months to insure that the data and assumptions are correct and understood is certainly warranted," said Ted Forsgren, CCA Florida Executive Director. "We greatly appreciated the Commission's decision to get the most updated info before taking final action," said Don Roberts, CCA Florida Chairman.

FWC Commissioners Ken Wright, Dick Corbett and Ron Bergeron led the move to defer to get the latest assessment. Commissioners Brian Yablonski and Kathy Barco were satisfied with the existing data and wanted the vote to be taken then. Chairman Rodney Barreto forged a compromise motion that holds the proposed redfish rule in its current state until the November meeting. At that time the bag limit rule will be voted up or down. Additional hearings are not anticipated.

More than 25 years ago redfish stocks on both coasts were at dangerously low escapement levels. CCA Florida led the charge of conservation minded recreational anglers in the successful campaign for strict regulations on recreational fisherman and no commercial sale. The redfish "gamefish" rule was approved in 1988 and created significant increases in population abundance. "That was the beginning of the great redfish fishery that we now enjoy," said Forsgren.

For more than 20 years, recreational anglers and statewide groups have monitored and protected the redfish stocks. CCA Florida and others have focused on creating a high quality fishery, one with high abundance and lots of fish to catch and release, and the opportunity to keep one to eat. The Commission has recognized that desire by setting the redfish management goal at 40 percent Escapement Rate, similar to the high protection goal set for snook.

The great success of the program has drawn much attention and greater fishing pressure on redfish. "The FWC's own data shows that escapement rates have been steadily declining over the last 20 years," said Forsgren. "At the same time fishing effort has steadily and dramatically increased. On the west coast annual directed trips for redfish have gone from just under a half million trips to two million trips and east coast has gone from a quarter million to two million trips annually."

All of the major statewide recreational fishing groups are united in their support of the 40 percent goal and the desire to keep the current one fish bag limit. The groups include CCA Florida, Florida Guides Association, International Game Fish Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Florida Chapter of the Federation of Fly Fishers and many local fishing clubs.

"We greatly appreciate the Commissioners decision to act positively on our request for a deferral," said Don Roberts. "We thank them for the time they have spent to manage this great Florida gamefish".