With no signs that red tide is easing its assault on Gulf of Mexico beaches, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday extended restrictions on snook and redfish to catch-and-release for another seven months. It also extended the fishing restrictions north to cover all of the Tampa Bay region.
FWC ordered the catch-and-release restriction to be extended until May 10, 2019, in Manatee and Hillsborough counties. Beginning Friday, the restrictions will also cover Pinellas and Pasco counties, generally following the trail set by red tide as the bloom has extended north along the coast.
The popular snook season had been scheduled to start on Sept. 1, before the commission first announced the restrictions last month.
Last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced he would give an additional $1.2 million for research and hatching of more redfish at FWC’s Stock Enhancement Research Facility at Port Manatee in an effort to curb red tide’s impact on the redfish population.
The red tide bloom remains along 135 miles of the Southwest Florida coast from northern Pinellas County to northern Collier County, according to the latest report released by the FWC on Wednesday afternoon.
Fish kills and respiratory irritation continue to be reported in Manatee, Pinellas, Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.
According to the collaborative forecast from FWC and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, a southwestern movement for surface waters and southeastern movement for subsurface waters is forecast over the next three days from Manatee County to northern Monroe County.