Florida Keys [anglers] residents spoke out on dolphin fish harvests, lobster bully-netting, lionfish problems and grouper seasons when meeting with state fishery managers last summer.
Wednesday in Panama City Beach, board members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will consider whether to act on any of the concerns gathered at a statewide series of 19 workshops.
Two of those workshops were held in Key West and Islamorada, drawing more than 50 people in the Keys.
“The state has some good rules but so many of them need some tweaking,” John Sahagian, a Lower Keys sportfishing professional for more than 20 years, said Thursday.
Sahagian presented a detailed list of his concerns to FWC staff during the July session in Key West. One of them — a proposed barracuda size limit that would prevent trophy-size fish from being taken as mounts — was dropped in the final barracuda rule subsequently approved.
Sahagian said he urges changes to some existing rules.
“Mutton snapper is a one of our larger game fish, and they allow [a daily bag limit of] 10,” he said. “In the same breath, mangrove snapper is a one of our most abundant fish, and they allow only five. Whose logic is this?”
He also questions the need for a dolphin fish size limit since the fish are fast-growing and “extraordinarily hard to handle in the boat” for measuring. “I’d rather see a lower bag limit with no size limit,” he said.
Other Keys residents in Islamorada and Key West voiced concern over an increase in lobster bully-netting, which they contend could affect harvest by trappers and divers.
Bully-netting — catching lobster with a net on a pole from a boat — is allowed at night during lobster mini-season in the Keys but diving is not. “That’s a license for abuse,” Sahagian said, making a daily bag limit for bully-netters “unenforceable.”
Recommendations targeting the invasive lionfish from Keys residents included offering bounties or allowing use of fish traps.
Other speakers protested the winter closure of shallow-water grouper harvests. Calls for a limited harvest on taking Goliath grouper were heard.
Several speakers in the Keys endorsed the marine reserve system in federal waters along the reef and asked for the state to consider similar protected areas.
FWC commissioners will be asked by staff if they want agency staff to pursue any of the issues discussed.