Snook regulations changes: What did FWC decide to do with Florida's most popular fish?
Proposals included stopping harvest in Tampa Bay and reducing harvest limits statewide
Snook regulations changed slightly for some Florida waters, however changes to bag limits including harvest closures for some regions of the state will hold off at least until next summer, according to the state fishery management officials Wednesday.
Four changes to snook management in Florida were proposed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff. Of those, two changes were adopted:
- State was divided into nine snook management regions
- September added to closed harvest season for Charlotte Harbor and Southwest Florida which includes Collier, Monroe and part of Miami-Dade counties
Snook fishery managers now are able to be more flexible in decision-making when red tides, fish kills or other factors impact local fisheries, the FWC said. The seven member board of commissioners voted on the proposals Wednesday in Jensen Beach, the first of two days of scheduled meetings.
The board decided to table until a future meeting:
- A proposed 2-snook vessel harvest limit statewide
- A harvest closure for the Tampa Bay region that was to begin in 2024
The proposals were developed with concerns for declining water quality, loss of habitat and increased fishing pressure by residents and visitors, FWC marine fisheries manager Erika Burgess said. A yearlong process of 12 public in-person workshops, two virtual workshops, the distribution of an angler satisfaction survey combined with fishery dependent and fishery independent research methods provided the data FWC staff used to craft the proposals.
The board's decision followed impassioned pleas from several of the 20 speakers. Some supported staff recommendations to enact the harvest closures. With the 2-snook vessel limit, seven spoke against it and three spoke in favor of it. Four spoke out against closing snook harvest in Tampa Bay.
Snook regulations could become a topic discussed every year at FWC meetings, Burgess told commissioners. Chairman Rodney Barreto said that will allow them to change regulations quickly if needed.
"Our fishery is great here. I don't see any need to make any further regulations at this time. If a problem crops up that we aren't having now, it can be dealt with. Hold back on the 2-fish limit right now," Capt. Mike Maher of Vero Beach asked of the commissioners before they voted.
"Snook fishing is in decline in Stuart. In Sebastian and Fort Pierce, there is more habitat and deep water for snook. We have no seagrass meadows in Stuart anymore and an increase in fishing effort. I support a 2-snook vessel limit," said Capt. Mike Holliday of Stuart.
"I was surprised the commissioners decided to drop the 2-fish vessel limit, Now, I'd like to see them increase the harvest slot limit from 28-32 inches to 28-34 inches," said Greg Simmons, a Fort Pierce angler.
Commissioners also directed FWC staff to look at the possibility of creating a 10th snook management region by splitting the 156-mile Indian River Lagoon into two different regions.
Of the 1.4 million saltwater fishing licenses sold in Florida this year, more than 540,000 of them have purchased the $10 annual snook stamp including more than 93,000 lifetime fishing licenses.
The snook regulation changes will go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.
Go to FWC meeting in Jensen Beach for more information.
Ed Killer covers fishing for TCPalm. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.