FWC News Release
Contact: Dale Jones, 352-475-1555
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) passed rule amendments Wednesday to sharpen management of the state’s freshwater recreational and commercial fisheries. Florida remains the Fishing Capital of the World because of great resources and responsible management. Regulations, based on solid research, public input and local impact, ensure a bright future for Florida’s anglers.
A new rule will prohibit use of firearms for taking fish and wildlife on 38 fish management areas (FMAs), rather than completely prohibiting possession of firearms on those areas. This is more consistent with other firearm regulations and reduces the problem of someone simply passing through an area with a legal firearm in his possession.
The following lakes associated with the Fish Orlando! project are being removed from the fish management area system: lakes Lorna Doone (14 acres, Orange County); Richmond (38 acres, Orange County); Kirkman Pond (4 acres, Orange County; and Lake Dot (3 acres, Seminole County). The rule also prohibits possession and use of cast nets in lakes Ivanhoe (Orange County) and Santiago (Orange County), which remain part of the Fish Orlando! project.
Another rule allows the dates Joe Budd Pond FMA in Gadsden County is open to public fishing to be established by executive order. This will allow changes related to the fish camp dates and classroom activities at Joe Budd Aquatic Education Center to be tailored to changing conditions. This year, the pond will be open to the public during daylight hours July 19 – Sept. 21.
At Tenoroc FMA (Polk County), a new rule allows visitors to check in and out at additional designated entry points and exempts permitted alligator hunters from the requirement to enter at designated entry points. The rule also renamed lakes East Pasture and West Pasture to Pine Lakes and increased angling opportunities in these two lakes to include licensed anglers when accompanied by a child under 16 years old. Other changes at Tenoroc include limiting the discharge of firearms to the firing range or at FWC-sponsored events and requiring all dogs to be leashed.
Another rule change redefined species that may be taken with a dip net, cast net (1-inch maximum stretched mesh), trap or minnow seine for use as bait. Those species are golden shiners of any size and other freshwater nongame fish (including catfish) less than 8 inches total length, unless specifically prohibited. This replaces less-specific language that previously referred to minnows of nongame fish.
Nongame freshwater fish may be taken with cast nets of any mesh size in the South and Northeast regions, in Citrus and Glades counties, and in most of the Southwest Region. The exception is that possession or use of cast nets in waters adjoining Saddle Creek FMA (in Polk County) confined by Morgan Combee Road, U.S. 92 and Fish Hatchery Road is prohibited. The basic intent of this rule is to remove the size limit on cast nets in the South Region.
The rule requires fishing gear such as hoop nets, wire traps, slat baskets, trotlines, bush hooks and setlines to be clearly and legibly marked with the fisherman’s name and address. This enables better enforcement and removal of abandoned gear or improperly positioned gear, such as gear that is in too shallow water, creating a navigation hazard.
The most significant rule changes concern Lake Okeechobee to enhance its recovery from recent environmental setbacks.
The black bass length regulation on Lake Okeechobee moved from a 13- to 18-inch slot limit to an 18-inch or greater minimum length limit. Also, a new rule establishes a 10-inch or greater minimum length for black crappie on the lake.
In addition, the boundary definition for Lake Okeechobee now includes that portion of the C-41-A Canal from the intersection of the C-38 Canal upstream to the S-84 structure. The FWC conducted two public meetings in Clewiston and Okeechobee, where participants favored the rule changes.
The black bass regulation on Lake Trafford was changed from a bag limit of five fish, only one of which may be 14 inches or greater in total length, to a five-fish bag limit and provisions that all bass must be 18 inches or greater in total length and only one fish may be 22 inches or greater in total length.
This ends the “on-year” public-comment cycle, so freshwater rules probably will remain relatively unchanged for the next two years unless conditions change and require prompt action by the FWC.
These rules go into effect July 1 and will be included in the next printed rules and online at MyFWC.com/Fishing.