Two-year program allows FWC to establish its own harvest guidelines for recreational anglers

By Capt. Zach ZachariasCorrespondent

The fisheries management folks have finally thrown a bone to recreational anglers targeting American red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The Feds at NOAA Fisheries has granted the Gulf states a two-year pilot management option allowing state management agencies the leeway to establish their own harvest guidelines in both state and federal zones.

The program, aka the “exempted fishing permit” gives Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission the right to manage the whole snapper enchilada for two years and they have established a 40-day recreational harvest to begin on June 11 and run through July 21. After years of ridiculously short open seasons, this is really a big deal for recreational anglers to get their fair share of the pie. It also shows that the feds have finally owned up to the fact that in some areas of the Gulf states, American reds are not a factor in state waters, the Gulf Coast south of the big bend, including the Suncoast, being one of them.

The exempted fishing permit does not apply to commercial harvesters or for-hire (charter) operations with valid federal reef permits. Those for-hire vessels have a separate harvest season that roughly runs concurrently with the new recreational regulation.

2018 Lionfish Challenge

The 2018 Lionfish Challenge kicks off on May 19 and will continue through to Sept. 3. The opener coincides with Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day on May 19. Both spear fishers and hook-and-liners can register to participate by going to MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

This year there will be tagged lionfish released that when brought in can garner participants up to $5,000 in cash prizes. Many non-cash prizes such as GoPro Cams, Engel Cooler products, Turtle Skin Gloves and more, are