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From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Balancing the needs and wants of our saltwater fishermen with resource protection that will last well into the future is a constant challenge for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. When population numbers for a species are low, we often have to make tough decisions, balancing the needs of the species with the needs of the fishermen.
This may mean limiting harvest in an effort to rebuild that species for future anglers.
But these difficult decisions can lead to great rewards and increased fishing opportunities, as we have recently seen.
Thanks to years of successful management strategies, the Commission was able to increase fishing opportunities for red drum and spotted seatrout in state waters.
Nearly two million saltwater anglers live and visit Florida’s 2,276 miles of coastline. These increases not only allow for better fishing opportunities, they also provide economic opportunities.
Recreational saltwater fishing in Florida has an annual economic impact of $5.7 billion. Bait and tackle shops, charter fishermen, hotels and restaurants are just a few of the businesses that gain from the increased fishing opportunities as more anglers flock to the Fishing Capital of the World.
The state has been managing red drum and spotted seatrout since the late 1980s through conservation measures such as bag and size limits, harvest seasons and gear limitations.
The effectiveness of these tools is reflected in the populations of red drum and spotted seatrout.
In the span of 20 years, red drum numbers have not only met our goals, but have been consistently exceeding them in the northeast and northwest areas of the state, where the bag limit was increased from one to two fish.
Spotted seatrout numbers are also meeting our goals and are doing exceptionally well in the northeast region of the state, where the bag limit was increased from five to six fish.
On Feb. 1, 2012, when the management changes for red drum and spotted seatrout went into effect, several other changes also took place, including the removal of all spotted seatrout recreational closed seasons and the expansion of commercial spotted seatrout open seasons.
For some fishermen, the idea of increasing fishing opportunities has been a cause of concern. Many fishermen remember what it was like when these species were not doing well, and they do not want to return to those days.
But to successfully manage a species means providing as many fishing opportunities as possible while maintaining sustainable fisheries. This is exactly what we are doing with red drum and spotted seatrout.
With continued efforts to properly manage Florida’s marine resources, we hope to see increased opportunities in the future for all of Florida’s saltwater species.
Keep track of the latest changes in fisheries management by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing or follow us on Twitter (@MyFWC and @MyFWClife) and "like" us on Facebook at MyFWC.