A soon to be effective regulation change by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission increase limits on largemouth bass fishing on a statewide scale once current regulations expire at the end of June. The change was proposed and accepted with the hopes of preserving trophy fish, to increase angler satisfaction and promote their value, in an effort to ensure Florida remains the Black Bass Fishing Capital of the World.

From the FWC:

Largemouth bass are Florida’s most sought-after freshwater sportfish. About seventy percent of Florida’s 1.4 million freshwater anglers target largemouth bass, generating well over a half billion dollars in retail sales. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) recently adopted the Black Bass Management Plan (BBMP) to guide future management and conservation of black bass populations. The goal is the optimal sustainable use of Florida’s bass fisheries with emphasis on high quality and trophy bass in order to ensure Florida is the Black Bass Fishing Capital of the World.

Florida’s statewide largemouth bass regulations, which expire June 30, 2016, were developed 20 years ago with separate regulations for north, central and south Florida. Since then, 25 different size and bag limits have been instituted on various lakes throughout the state. FWC biologists believe that Florida’s bass populations are healthy. Harvest rates of bass is very low, primarily due to the popularity of catch-and-release fishing. However, harvest of larger bass, especially those over eight pounds, may be higher. FWC biologists were tasked with exploring development of the least restrictive regulations feasible that will protect and enhance trophy bass fisheries, maintain healthy bass populations statewide, and provide diverse angling opportunities, including controlled harvest, that promote high angler satisfaction.

The new rule (effective July 1, 2016) maintains a statewide 5-black bass daily bag limit, but changes it so that only one of them may be 16 inches or greater in total length. With the new regulation, there are no longer be zones within the state with different largemouth bass regulations. Additionally, many of the resource specific special regulations for largemouth bass have been removed and these resources will be managed under the new statewide regulation to simplify the rules.

Image: scout.com

Image: scout.com

These newly regulated daily bag limits will completely change how anglers approach largemouth bass fishing on a statewide scale as they decide which sizes to keep and which ones to release.

CURRENT MINIMUM LENGTH REGULATIONS (Until June 30, 2016)

  • Divided among three regions
  • Restricts harvest of abundant fish
  • Protects males and slow growing females
  • Allowed harvest targets fast growing females
  • Sends the wrong message to anglers
    • Don’t harvest little fish; they will all become big fish
    • Harvest many large fish
  • Modeling predicts fewer fish harvested (all sizes) and less catch of quality and trophy fish compared to other regulations evaluated.
  • Tournament Exemption Permit needed to weigh in more than one fish per person over 22 inches.
Image: myfwc.com

Image: myfwc.com

NEW REGULATION (After July 1, 2016)

  • Regulations simplified (no zones)
  • Less restrictive = more opportunities
  • Increased opportunities for harvest
  • Allowed harvest targets more males and slower growing females
  • Better conforms to consumption recommendations (smaller fish have lower mercury levels)
  • Promotes the value of trophy bass
  • Tournament Exemption Permit needed to weigh in more than one fish per person over 16 inches.
Image: myfwc.com

Image: myfwc.com

New Rules:

  • Statewide 5-fish daily bag limit, only one of which may be 16 inches or greater in total length for largemouth bass.
  • Remove most special regulations (Appendix A).
  • Other black bass species to be considered separately.

The new rules eliminate zones with different regulations and simplify fishing rules across the state.

Additionally, the regulation fits with FWC’s three step philosophy to manage for trophy bass; 1) It is O.K. to keep smaller bass (shorter than 16 inches), 2) if an angler wants to keep largemouth bass over 16 inches, they can only keep one per day and the angler is allowed to choose the size, and 3) FWC does not require the release of trophy bass (heavier than 8l bs) by regulation, but it is highly encouraged and anglers can receive gift cards and other prizes for photo documenting the catch, releasing the fish, and submitting the photos to TrophyCatch. See TrophyCatchFlorida.com for more details about TrophyCatch. Answers to frequently asked questions regarding the proposed regulation change can be found in Appendix B.

 

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