Fishermen to benefit from seatrout management

The Florida FWC voted to extend both commercial and recreational fishing opportunities for the spotted seatrout. Changes will take effect on Feb. 1, 2012. Thanks to successful spotted seatrout management, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted on Nov. 16 to increase both commercial and recreational fishing opportunities for the popular fish.

The decision is good news for all fishermen.

“What we are trying to do is be fair in a fishery that is in abundance, and in some cases, way in abundance,” said Chairman Kathy Barco. “We are dealing with a success story.

“At the end of the day, both commercial and recreational fishermen are getting something,” said Commissioner Brian Yablonski.

The decision came during day one of the two-day November Commission meeting in Key Largo.

The changes will take effect Feb.1, 2012, and include:

¦ Removing regional recreational season closures (removing the current February closure in northern Florida and the November-through-December closure in southern Florida);

¦ Raising the recreational bag limit in northeast Florida from five to six;

¦ Changing commercial seasons based on region – lengthening them from three months to five months in the northwest, southwest (June 1 – Oct. 31) and southeast (May 1 – Sept. 30) regions, and from three months to six months in the northeast region (June 1 – Nov. 30);

¦ Allowing spotted seatrout to be sold 30 days after the close of the regional commercial season;

¦ When there are two commercially licensed fishermen aboard, changing the commercial vessel limit to 150;

¦ Redefining the areas where spotted seatrout are managed by splitting the state into four management zones instead of three.

The changes come after a 2010 spotted seatrout stock assessment indicated numbers were consistently exceeding the annual management goal across the state, and nearly double in the northeast region of Florida.

The spotted seatrout, often referred to as “speckled trout” by local fisherman, is a common estuary fish found along the Gulf Coast.

While most of these fish are caught on shallow, grassy flats, spotted seatrout reside in virtually any inshore waters, from the surf of outside islands to far up coastal rivers, where they often come for shelter during cold weather. Contrary to its name, the spotted seatrout is not a member of the trout family (Salmonidae), but of the drum family (Sciaenidae). The average size of these fish is 1-2 pounds.

To learn more this and other managed Florida fish species, visit www.MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings,” then “Agenda.”

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