Here in Florida, the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is looking at some new regulations that will greatly affect our Sea Trout fishery. You can view the proposed new regulations at www.myfwc.com. Here is my opinion, as a 46 year old Floridian, who has fished long enough to see the highs and lows of the Sea Trout fishery with my own eyes.
Currently, we have a tremendous Sea Trout fishery under the current regulations and as a guide I regularly witness Sea Trout up to 5 and 6 pounds caught on many of my trips. In fact, I have never seen the Sea Trout fishery this healthy in my angling career in our state… something to be proud of especially considering the “Red Tide” of 2005 and the “Deep Freeze” of 2010. And the reason why the Sea Trout fishery is so healthy? It’s because the current regulations are working perfectly and protecting the trout from a substancial commercial fishing harvest! And as bad as those natural phenomena’s were to the Sea Trout populations in our state… it will not compare to how these new regulations that the FWC Commissioners are proposing to adopt will do to them. In my opinion, the new trout regs are unwarranted and way too risky to accept. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” is what most recreational anglers are saying about these proposed new regulations.
In the late 70’s and into the 80’s, the commercial harvest of Sea Trout made in nearly impossible to catch trout 15” inches or better on most trips and when anglers did catch larger trout those fish were scarred with net marks! That was an awful era for our Sea Trout populations, we do not want to endure that mistake again. Thanks to organizations like the CCA, recreational anglers finally had a voice and commercial netting of Sea Trout was finally banned. But here we are again in 2011, dealing with the possibility of commercial fishing doubling their current harvest, doubling the length of time they can harvest, and adding nets to the current hook & line method that they’ve had to use during the trout recovery! What in the world is the FWC thinking! In a few years, they (the FWC) will be telling us the Sea Trout fishery is in peril and that they are going to have to close harvest seasons for recreational anglers for an extended period of time… take my word for it that’s a good bet.
Here is something else to think about… the “trickle down” effect to the Florida economy. We have lots of tourism in this state that count on our healthy trout fishery to lure visitors down to Florida during the winter months… hotels, rentals, restaurants, bait shop owners, and guides. Additionally, sales of fishing tackle, boats, and even fishing licenses will certainly be hurt if these new Sea Trout regs are passed. The inshore fishing economy will certainly be wounded because not everybody is able to catch snook, redfish, and tarpon here in Florida on most outings but everyone can catch Sea Trout regardless of their skill level because the fishery is so healthy… the Sea Trout is the reason why most of us go fishing!
Listen, not only do we have to convince the FWC Commissioners to keep our current regulations in place for the Sea Trout. We have to insist that the Sea Trout gets game fish status like the snook, redfish, and tarpon… the Sea Trout should be the Florida state fish for that matter! My belief is the Sea Trout acts as a “gateway” species that draws new anglers and young people into our sport and into the outdoors… don’t let commercial fishing interests destroy this valuable resource and the opportunity to future anglers.
To make your voice heard take 2 minutes and visit www.myfwc.com and hit the contact page at the top then punch the email the Commissioners tab… please express to them your concerns about the new proposed Sea Trout regs. Additionally, go to www.snookfoundation.org and take the Sea Trout poll and add your comments as well… it’s important to all of us, please voice your opinion my friends.
Capt. C.A. Richardson