Some fishing limits being put in place

The commercial harvest of yellowtail snapper in federal South Atlantic waters closes at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, fishery managers declared Monday.

The year's annual catch limit of 1,596,510 pounds will be reached by then, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported.

Commercial boats in the Florida Keys produce most of the state's snapper -- an estimated 976,982 pounds captured off Key West, the Dry Tortugas and Middle Keys in 2015, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute reports.

Preliminary figures for the year indicate that yellowtail are selling for about $3.20 per pound in wholesale prices at the dock.

"Updated landings data indicate throughout 2015, yellowtail snapper landings have been consistently higher relative to previous years," the NMFS said in its statement. "Therefore the commercial harvest must close, given the catch limit will likely be reached by Oct. 31."

Commercial yellowtail fishing will resume Jan. 1.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering changing commercial harvest dates, with a possible summer closure to protect spawning fish.

Commercial vessels holding a federal commercial permit also are prohibited from harvesting yellowtail in state waters during the upcoming closure.

Recreational fishing for yellowtail remains open.

Cuda limits

New state rules on harvesting barracuda take effect Sunday. Limits adopted to safeguard against declines in the predator species apply throughout South Florida, including the Keys.

New bag limits are:

  • Two barracuda, per person per day, for both recreational and commercial harvesters.

  • A daily limit of six barracuda per vessel, for both recreational and commercial harvesters.

State fishery managers set the limits "after hearing stakeholder concerns about declining barracuda numbers observed when fishing and diving in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says.