[Crystal River, FL.–] Hurricane Irma’s lashing winds and roiled waters have done nothing to degrade the fishing along Florida’s Nature Coast. Sure, the Gulf and inshore waters got murky, …
Changes Coming in Hogfish Rules
Spear fishers and anglers from the Carolinas to the Keys to the Florida Panhandle may soon face new hogfish restrictions under rules approved by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils aimed at ending overfishing.
Hogfish is a species of wrasse– not snapper– commonly found around coral reefs and other hard bottom habitats. Most of the harvest is by spear fishers in Florida but hook-and-liners catch some using shrimp for bait.
The South Atlantic Council just adopted an amendment separating hogfish into two stocks in federal waters– Florida Keys/East Florida and Georgia/North Carolina– with a distinct set of regulations for each. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the minimum size limit for the Keys/East Florida stock would increase from 12 inches (fork length) to 16 inches (fork length) for both commercial and recreational fishers and divers. The recreational bag limit would be reduced from five fish to one fish per person per day, and the fishing season would run from May through October. The commercial trip limit would be set at 25 pounds.
For the Georgia/North Carolina stock, the minimum size limit would rise to 17 inches (fork length); the recreational bag limit would be two per person per day; and the commercial trip limit would be 500 pounds (gutted weight).
The Gulf Council in June also adopted new hogfish rules for federal waters extending from Cape Sable, Florida north. If approved by the Commerce Secretary, the minimum size would increase to 14 inches (fork length) and the annual catch limit would be set at 219,000 pounds (whole weight) through 2018 when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) conducts a new stock assessment. The measure also bans the use of power heads to harvest hogfish.
The FWC is expected to consider compatible rules for state waters at a meeting later this fall.