FWC's Fishing in the Know - May 2018


May 2018

FWC's Fishing in the Know

Division of Marine Fisheries Management Monthly Newsletter

Try fishing with barbless hooks or crimp the barb down. Catch rates using barbed versus barbless hooks are not significantly different, but the advantage of using barbless hooks is that they are easier to remove and cause less damage to fish.

blackfin tuna

Kellie Ralston with a blackfin tuna caught off Key West.

Submit your photos by emailing them to Saltwater@MyFWC.comLearn more about our photo guidelines.

Commission Meeting – April

Information: The FWC Commission listened to public testimony on and discussed several marine fisheries management items at the April 25-26 meeting in Fort Lauderdale. Please visit MyFWC.com and click on “FWC Commission Meetings” and the link under “Next Meeting” to see the agenda. 

Regulation changes (final decisions on these topics were made at this meeting):

  • Gulf reef fish/red snapper: Creation of a program requiring for-hire operations who fish for reef fish in Gulf state waters and do not have a federal reef fish permit to report their intention to harvest certain species of reef fish. This presentation also included an update on recent federal discussions about red snapper, Florida’s fishery management pilot program, and the 2018 recreational harvest season. 
  • Tripletail and sheepshead: Starting July 1, 2018, FWC’s regulations for both species will be extended into federal waters; the minimum size limit for tripletail will be increased from 15 to 18 inches total length; the daily recreational bag limit for sheepshead will be reduced from 15 to 8 per person; and a vessel limit of 50 sheepshead per trip will be created for recreational harvesters during the peak spawning months of March and April.
  • Gulf Commercial Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ): Federal consistency action will allow the FWC to enforce federal commercial IFQ regulations for red snapper and grouper/tilefish under state rules
  • West Bay oyster harvesting restrictions: The current prohibition on harvest and possession of oysters within the West Bay Estuarine Habitat Restoration Project boundaries in West Bay, Bay County, will be extended. This closure is part of a restoration project to create oyster reef habitat along an area of shoreline that historically has not had oysters. This project is expected to increase oyster recruitment to nearby harvestable reefs, reduce shoreline erosion, improve water quality, promote seagrass growth, and expand nursery habitat for both recreationally and commercially important fish. This was a draft rule with no further public hearing unless requested.


  • Sharks: Commission discussed various shark-related topics including the shore-based shark fishery. Commission directed staff to continue to stay engaged on all shark-related issues and pursue development of draft regulations for shore-based shark fishing. Staff will workshop and bring draft regulations to a future Commission meeting.
  • Goliath grouper: Commission discussed biology, available data, and stakeholder views. Commission directed staff to continue current goliath grouper research and management, and develop a road map to direct future conservation efforts. They did not pursue a limited harvest.
  • Federal fishery management updates

Links for more information:

Agenda [MyFWC.com]

News Releases [MyFWC.com]


Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival

Action: Celebrate with us May 19-20

Information: Join the FWC in celebrating the fourth annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (Saturday, May 19) by attending our 2-day festival at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club and Ole River Grill in Perdido Key. Event includes celebrity chef demos, lionfish tastings, fillet demos and more. Also participate in the Lionfish World Championship Tournament or attend a benefit concert by Little Texas at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 20, presented by Coast Watch Alliance and Lionfish University.

Links for more information:

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day [ReefRangers.com]

Little Texas Benefit Concert [Florabama.com]

Lionfish World Championship Tournament [Lionfishworldchampionship.com]

2018 Lionfish Challenge

Action: Find a tagged fish, win up to $5,000  

Information: The 2018 Lionfish Challenge starts May 19 and rewards lionfish harvesters with prizes for removing lionfish. This year’s program will include a new tagged-lionfish component. Catch an FWC-tagged lionfish and win up to $5,000. Other prizes will be awarded for lionfish removal. Participants who remove the most lionfish in the recreational and commercial categories will be crowned the 2018 Recreational Lionfish King/Queen and the Commercial Champion. Register today or learn more about the program at MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

Links for more information:

Lionfish Challenge [MyFWC.com]

Challenge Promotional Video [YouTube.com/FWCSaltwaterFishing]

Trap Fisheries Workshops

Action: Share your input this May  

Information: The FWC needs your input on the recreational and commercial stone crab and blue crab trap fisheries and the commercial spiny lobster trap fishery. Share your feedback on potential regulation changes for this fishery.

Links for more information:

Workshops [MyFWC.com]

Hogfish – Atlantic

Season opens May 1

Information: Recreational hogfish season opens May 1 in all state and federal waters south and east of Cape Sable on the Gulf coast. The season remains open through Oct.  31.

Links for more information:

Hogfish [MyFWC.com]

Grouper – Atlantic

Season opens May 1

Information: The recreational season for gag, black, red, yellowmouth and yellowfin grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby; opens May 1 in Atlantic state and federal waters, including state waters of Monroe County.

Links for more information:

Groupers [MyFWC.com]

Snook – Gulf

Action: Season closes May 1

Information: Snook will close to harvest in Gulf state, federal and inland waters, including all of Monroe County and Everglades National Park, starting May 1.  

Links for more information:

Snook [MyFWC.com]

Amberjack – Gulf

Season opens May 1

Information: The recreational amberjack season opens May 1 through 31 in Gulf state and federal waters. The season will also open Aug. 1 to Oct. 31.

Links for more information:

Amberjack [MyFWC.com]

Stone crab

Action: Season closes May 16

Information: Recreational and commercial stone crab season closes May 16 in state and federal waters.  

Links for more information:

Stone crab [MyFWC.com]

Gulf Reef Fish Survey

Attention Gulf Anglers

Information: Snapper and grouper season is right around the corner. That means it is time to sign up for or renew your participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. Registration for this survey is required if you fish from a private vessel for the following reef species in the Gulf: red and vermilion snapper; gag, red, and black grouper; greater and lesser amberjack; banded rudderfish; almaco jack; and gray triggerfish.

To sign up or renew online, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

If you are NOT a Gulf reef fish angler and don’t plan on fishing for these reef species in the Gulf this year, please do not sign up or renew your participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. By only sampling anglers who plan on fishing for those species, Florida is improving recreational data collection. Questions? Contact us at Marine@MyFWC.com. 

Just a reminder – renewing the Gulf Reef Fish Survey does not renew your fishing license, so if needed, remember to renew that as well!

Thank you for helping Florida collect more timely and accurate data on Gulf reef fish harvest.

Links for more information:

Gulf Reef Fish Survey [MyFWC.com]

Gulf Reef Fish State For-Hire Program

Sign up for new program before snapper season starts

Information: For-hire operations who do not have a federal reef fish permit but target reef fish such as red snapper in state waters must sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish State For-Hire Program by June 11. To sign up, visit any tax collector’s office and ask to have the no-cost State Gulf Reef Fish Charter added to your license. State Gulf Reef Fish Charter must be on your license if you plan to target any of the following species in state waters: red and vermilion snapper; gag, red, and black grouper; greater and lesser amberjack; banded rudderfish; almaco jack; and gray triggerfish.

FWC needs your feedback

Information: FWC is collecting feedback on several fisheries issues including shore-based shark fishing, trap fisheries, shrimp and bay scallops.

Provide comments on these or other fisheries online at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

Link for more information:

Saltwater Comments [MyFWC.com]

Angler recognition logo

Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs

Catch a Florida Memory today

Information: These three programs encourage ethical angling while earning rewards for your efforts.

  • Saltwater Fish Life List: A list of 71 different species. Can you catch them all?
  • Saltwater Reel Big Fish: Recognition for extraordinarily-sized catches.
  • Saltwater Grand Slams: Earn rewards for catching three different specified species in a 24-hour period.

Link for more information:



Commission Meeting – April

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival

2018 Lionfish Challenge

Trap Fisheries Workshops

Hogfish – Atlantic

Grouper – Atlantic

Snook – Gulf

Amberjack – Gulf

Stone crab

Gulf Reef Fish Survey

Gulf Reef Fish State For-Hire Program

FWC needs your feedback

Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs




    May - June

    State waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf and from shore to 3 nautical miles in the Atlantic.  

    May 1 – Grouper, several species (Atlantic) opens

    May 1 – Hogfish (Atlantic) opens

    May 1 – Snook (Gulf) closes

    May 1 – Amberjack (Gulf) opens

    May 16 – Stone crab closes

    June 1 – Snook (Atlantic) closes

    June 1 – Gag grouper (Gulf, excluding 4-county region) opens

    June 1 – Amberjack (Gulf) closes

    June 1 – Triggerfish (Gulf) closes

    June 16 – Scallops (SW Taylor through Dixie counties) opens


    Spotted Seatrout

    Bazil Albrighton with a spotted seatrout.


    May - June

    Lionfish Events Calendar 

    May 5 – Kids’ Fishing Clinic – Pensacola

    May 7 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Titusville

    May 8 – Trap Fishery Workshop – St. Petersburg

    May 9 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Crystal River

    May 10 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Steinhatchee

    May 12 – Kids’ Fishing Clinic – Fernandina Beach

    May 14 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Marathon

    May 15 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Key West

    May 19-20 – Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival – Pensacola

    May 21 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Dania Beach

    May 22 – Trap Fishery Workshop – Fort Myers

    June 2-3 – Saltwater License-Free Fishing

    June 6-July 27 – Nature Coast Fishing for Youth program – Cedar Key

    June 9-10 – Freshwater License-Free Fishing

    June 9 – Women’s Fishing Clinic – St. George Island

    June 19-20 – FWC Commission Meeting - Sarasota

    June 23 – Kids’ Fishing Clinic – Cape Canaveral


    lionfish shirt

    From Reef Rangers:

    Compete for the Crown! Registration is now open for the 2018 Lionfish Challenge!

    The program rewards recreational and commercial harvesters for removing and submitting lionfish from May 19 through September 3.

    This year's Challenge also includes a novel tagged-lionfish category that rewards divers in up to $5,000 cash by harvesting an FWC-tagged lionfish from artificial reefs located statewide. Thank you to our generous sponsors: Coastal Conservation Association Florida, The ...American Sportfishing Association, Boat U.S., Yamaha Motor USA, National Marine Manufacturers Association and Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.

    Get your diving and harvesting gear ready for the start of the Challenge on May 19!

    Visit us on social media at.

    Youtube: MyFWC.com/SaltwaterFishing

      Contact: 850-487-0554 or marine@myfwc.com

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