Starting in September, tarpon and bonefish fisheries will have new protections in place, aimed at ensuring their economic and fishing value in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved these management measures at its June 12 meeting in Lakeland. The catch-and-release proposal was an easy choice — the economic and fishing values of bonefish and tarpon far exceed their value as food fishes.
The following changes go into effect Sept. 1 in state and federal waters off Florida:
- All harvest of tarpon is eliminated, with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.
- Tarpon tags are limited to one per person, per year except for properly licensed charter boat captains and fishing guides.
- Transport or shipment of tarpon is limited to one fish per person.
- There is a one-fish-per-vessel limit for tarpon.
- Gear used for tarpon is limited to hook-and-line only.
- Multiple-hook rigs with live or dead natural bait cannot be used to target tarpon or bonefish.
- People can temporarily possess a smaller tarpon for photography, measurement of length and girth and scientific sampling. All tarpon more than 40 inches must remain in the water.
- Tarpon regulations extend into federal waters.
- The bonefish tournament exemption permit is eliminated. (This exemption allowed tournament anglers with the proper permit to temporarily possess bonefish for transport to a tournament scale.)