State fishery managers moved closer to extending the no-take season of permit, a coveted shallow-water game fish, at last Thursday’s meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
An existing three-month closed season on taking permit from South Florida waters may be extended to four months, if the FWC board formally approves adding April to the closure in February.
The FWC commissioners, meeting last week in Gainesville, reviewed the plan and endorsed a formal hearing on permit season for their February session.
Some Florida Keys fishing guides associations strongly back the longer closed season, intended to provide more protection for the fish during its spawning season. Permit are ranked as among the Big 3 flats-fish species, along with tarpon and bonefish.
Most Keys waters lie within a Special Permit Zone established seven years ago to lower the harvest of permit, and protect the stock during spawning.
“Anglers and recreational fishing guides report substantial permit aggregations occurring within the SPZ during April and that these aggregations are being heavily targeted,” FWC Marine Fisheries Management Director Jessica McCawley said in a report.
In other Keys-related issues at the FWC meeting, the agency accepted a $25,000 donation from the American Sportfishing Association to the state’s Lionfish Removal Incentive Program.
“It’s important for Florida’s recreational industry to be involved in the fight against invasive lionfish that threaten our fisheries,” said Kellie Ralston, the group’s Florida Fishery Policy director.
Funds from the program encourage divers to remove the unwanted Pacific species and help identify where the voracious lionfish are congregating. Lionfish have virtually no known marine predators in the Atlantic.
The federal South Atlantic Fishery Management Council last week acted to reduce the overall harvest of red grouper, declaring the food-fish species “overfished and undergoing overfishing.”
“There are concerns that recruitment for red grouper, or the number of young produced each year, has been poor for several years,” an agency spokesman said.
The total allowable red-grouper catch would be reduced from 780,000 pounds to 139,000 pounds beginning in 2018.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206