The regulations for one of Florida’s most popular sport fish could undergo major changes.
At its Wednesday, May 4 meeting in Gainesville, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved proposed rule changes for the recreational capture of rockfish, or red drum, in state waters.
This includes increasing the daily bag limit for rockfish caught off Citrus County and Big Bend in Florida from one fish per person to two.
In addition to adjusting harvest limits for fishers and vessels, the FWC is also proposing to divide its current three redfish management regions into nine monitoring areas.
These suggested changes, according to the FWC, “will better capture regional differences and improve angler satisfaction” by taking into account environmental and human impacts specific to smaller management areas.
“With this new management approach,” FWC President Rodney Barreto said in a press release, “this agency is committed to continuing to work with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions for redfish.”
FWC staff will continue to gather feedback from stakeholders on the proposed rule changes and will return to the commissioners “later this year” for a rules hearing. Public workshops on the subject will take place in June.
Comments may be submitted to FWC staff by emailing [email protected], calling 850-487-0554, or completing the Saltwater Public Comment Form at tinyurl.com/4r8wc4kf.
To learn more about the proposals, visit tinyurl.com/yarph2kk.
Growing up to 61 inches in length, according to the FWC, rockfish live in coastal waters and, during the winter, are found in seagrass beds, near oyster bars or spring-fed creeks.
Redfish spawning season runs from August through December in lagoon passes, creeks, and estuaries throughout the state. During the season, rockfish rub special muscles against their air bladders to produce a “drum” sound, for which the fish is named.
Juvenile rockfish stay on land until they reach about 30 inches at about four years old before migrating further from shore.
Redfish are also prized by anglers and for-hire fishing charter captains. Commercial fishing for redfish is prohibited.
On February 24, 1996, George E. Hogan Jr. caught a 52-pound, 5-ounce rockfish at Cocoa in Brevard County.setting the current state record.
According to the FWC, the Red Drum was overfished in the late 1980s, resulting in several emergency closures to help reduce fishing pressure.
In 1989, the current red drum slot limit—the threshold length of a fish to harvest—was established, along with a bag limit and closed season, allowing Florida’s rockfish population to rebound. .
FWC divides its jurisdiction over redfish into three management zones: Northwest, South and Northeast. Citrus County is part of the Northwest Management Area, which extends from Escambia County to the Fred Howard Park Causeway near Pasco County.
Statewide, the current slot limit for rockfish is between 18 and 27 inches, and each vessel is limited to a catch of eight fish.
In the northwest and southern management areas, a person is allowed a daily bag limit of one rockfish, while an angler in the northeast region is allowed a daily bag limit of two daily intake.
Captains and crew on for-hire charter travel are also permitted to have a personal baggage limit.
For more information on the latest redfish regulations, visit tinyurl.com/2p92eufk.
If approved, the FWC’s proposed rule changes for rockfish would divide the agency’s three management areas into nine: the Panhandle, Big Bend, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Port of Charlotte, Southwest, Southeast, Indian River Lagoon, and Northeast.
Citrus County would be part of the Big Bend region, which would also have an increased daily bag limit of two rockfish per person. However, the vessel limit for redfish in the Big Bend would be reduced to four fish.
If the rule changes go into effect, captains and charter crews statewide will also be prohibited from maintaining a catch limit of rockfish while on a voyage, and the haul limit out of the State water for redfish would be reduced from six to four fish per person.