Rules and Regulations
Capt. Wayne Conn
March 12, 2015
Miami - Saltwater Fishing Report
Once again I'd like to The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spends a huge amount of time and money identifying issues with our marine resources then creating rules that they feel will help improve the situation. They deal with recreationally as well as commercially taken marine life. Of course, they have help. The Federal Government partners with the state's organizations to implement plans that they collectively feel will make a difference in the fisheries of the future. I'm not interested in taking the time or this space to contest certain rules, only to give my opinion as to why we need to comply.
The State of Florida owes a lot to fishing. Each year MILLIONS of its residents and visitors go fishing, and in doing so spend a lot of money in the activity. Florida is #1 in the nation in saltwater anglers (2.4 million) with an economic impact of $7.6 billion annually! And that is only for recreational fishing who also spend almost $30 million for licenses!
Commercial fisheries weigh in at over $200 million a year, with another $ 1 million in licenses. Both fisheries combined support nearly 175,000 jobs. The State knows this very well and takes managing its valuable resources seriously. They make the rules, and expect them to be followed.
As a professional in the fishing business, I take personal pleasure in following those rules, and demanding my crew does the same. I feel that if the crew of the boat is conservation minded it may rub off on the customers. I get it that the customer pays his hard earned money to catch fish, and take them home to eat, if that's what he wants. You can imagine how many times I'm asked to "stretch" a 15" Mutton snapper, or a 19" dolphin. It is frustrating to say the least. We may not make them happy letting their fish go, but we do gain their respect in helping preserve the resource. On the Reward Fleet we show people the proper way to let a fish go, so it has the best chance to survive. A great saying to remember is to "limit your catch", not "catch your limit" when the fish DO bite like there's no tomorrow. Take what you need!
There are fisheries closures going on right now that affect our fishing. Since the New Year and the grouper closure that came with it we have released a number of legal sized gag and black groupers. This closure has been a tremendous success! We are seeing throughout the year a greater number of small gags and blacks as ever before.
Goliath groupers are also a huge success story for the state. There are so many now that they are trying to figure out how to let us keep a few without commercial interests finding the loopholes that may cause their demise AGAIN.
Of course, not all actions seem as successful. In the last few years all professional boats are seeing more big Red Snappers than I could have imagined. We used to see one or two a year, now we see dozens! In this case, I'm not sure the data they depended on was really accurate. Hope they adjust it! Recently, I found a huge school of smaller reds ( 2 to 5 pounds) in about 320 feet of water, catching 2 at a time ! We released them all, and moved to another location.
The rules are there with the best intentions of the authorities. It's our duty to follow them as best we can and hope for the best. It also is our duty by being stewards of the marine environment to ask questions, and be a voice. If you feel the rules in place are unfair, please have a big voice. Historically the recreational fishermen don't make enough waves, and the commercial interests with their affiliations and organizations have had their way unfairly. Take a minute, voice your thoughts. Everyone's input is needed.
Captain Wayne Conn
Reward Fishing Fleet
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