FWC needs to reject sea trout rule – Sun

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets Wednesday and Thursday starting at 8:30 a.m. both days at the Key Largo Grande Resort Beach Club, 97000 South Overseas Highway, Key Largo. One of the most contentious items on the agenda is a sea trout rule that would significantly increase the commercial take of the valuable sportfish.

Based on the state’s thriving trout population, the rule, which has a final hearing Wednesday, would eliminate the closed recreational season statewide. That means no more closed season in November and December in South Florida.

But the rule would also extend the commercial trout season from three months to five months and double the daily commercial bag limit from 75 trout to 150 trout with two or more commercially licensed anglers aboard. They can catch those fish on hook and line and cast nets.

The rule also would allow commercial seine netters to sell their trout bycatch, up to 75 fish. Currently, any seine-caught trout must be released alive or discarded dead.

Now, remembering the constant efforts of netters to find a way around the constitutional gill net ban that took effect in 1995, does anybody think seine netters might put their nets where they can catch a bunch of trout to sell? Apparently, the FWC commissioners and the staffers who drafted the rule don’t know any better. This is the language from the FWC’s sea trout presentation, which can be viewed online at http://myfwc.com/media/1583105/4B3_SpottedSeatrout_presentation.pdf

They’ve got to be kidding, right? Unfortunately, they’re not.

Boy do I miss former FWC chairman Rodney Barreto.

Barreto, whose stepped down from the commission over the summerwhen his second term expired, knows how valuable recreational-caught fish are to Florida’s economy. The Indian River from Stuart north has some of the biggest sea trout in the country and anglers come from all over to catch a “gator” trout of 8 or more pounds. They hire guides, stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. If they fish on their own, they buy gas, ice, lures, bait and food.

 In addition, sea trout are what St. Petersburg fishing guide C.A. Richardson, the host of Flats Class TV, calls a gateway fish because they are fairly easy to catch, which means average anglers can catch them as well as kids and novice anglers, which keeps them involved in fishing and the outdoors.

Commercial trout landings dropped dramatically after the net ban, but this new rule pretty much begs commercial anglers to target those fish.

“You kill the sea trout, you’ll turn them away,” said Richardson, who prefers to see trout given gamefish status like snook and redfish, which would prevent their commercial sale.

prohibit the recreational and commercial harvest of great, scalloped and smooth hammerhead sharks, and tiger sharks from state waters. This is rule that should be approved because there is no need to kill those sharks.

If you can’t attend the meeting but want to comment on the rules, e-mail the comments to the FWC commissioners at http://myfwc.com/contact/staff-contacts/senior-staff/commissioners/

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