The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, at its Wednesday meeting in Lakeland, approved a proposal to make tarpon and bonefish catch-and-release-only fisheries.
The proposal was adopted in recognition of the economic and fishing value of bonefish and tarpon, which the FWC says greatly exceed their value as food fish.
The following changes will go into effect Sept. 1 in state and federal waters off Florida: All harvest of tarpon will be eliminated, with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag. Tarpon tags will be limited to one per person per year except for charterboat captains). Transport or shipment of tarpon becomes limited to one fish per person. One fish per vessel limit is created for tarpon. Gear used for tarpon will be limited to hook-and-line only. People will be allowed to temporarily possess a tarpon for photography, measurement of length and girth and scientific sampling, with the stipulation that tarpon more than 40 inches must remain in the water. Tarpon regulations will extend into federal waters. The bonefish tournament exemption permit is eliminated. This exemption allows tournament anglers with the proper permit to temporarily possess bonefish for transport to a tournament scale.
The commission also approved modifying the tarpon tag program by eliminating current reporting requirements and shifting the start and end date for when the tarpon tag is valid from July through June to a calendar year, January through December.
These rules will be changed in FWC code and will go into effect Sept. 1.