Florida Lowers Limits To Increase Redfish Numbers

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By Justin Pickett

On April 14 of this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) passed a new daily catch limit for Red Drum along its Northwest coastline.

According to the FWC, “these changes come as the result of stakeholder concerns that Red Drum populations have declined in some parts of the Panhandle region of northwest Florida since 2013, the final year of data included in the most recent stock assessment.”

The new regulations come after a lengthy period of researching and surveying the population of redfish within the northwest region’s waters. Along with their gathered data, the FWC has been gathering testaments from recreational anglers via an online survey, Facebook, and face-to-face interviews at the boat ramps. Their surveys and conversations have grossly indicated that many anglers are concerned about the decline seen in redfish numbers observed over the past several years. The good news is that it isn’t going unnoticed, or being pushed to the side. Instead, the FWC recognizes the value that the Red Drum brings to the communities that rely on fishing as a way of life, and they’re doing something about it.

Effective May 1, 2016, each angler will only be able to keep one Red Drum within the slot of 19”-27” per day.

However, the total vessel limit of eight Red Drum and the six per person transport limit will remain the same. These regulation changes will place the entire Gulf Coast of Florida under the same limits for Red Drum. The goal of these new “regs” is to increase the number of Redfish within the fisheries, thus increasing the angler’s experience on the water, while promoting more catch and release efforts in hopes to increase the Redfish populations within the Northwest region.

I’m glad that the FWC is stepping up and realizing the need for the regulation change. I typically spend at least a week’s worth of days in the Northwest region of Florida fishing for Speckled Trout and Redfish. I’ve been fishing along the Nature Coast for twelve years now, and I can honestly say that I’ve noticed the drop in Redfish numbers. It was common for each angler to catch a handful of nice Reds everyday over the grass flats of Dead Man’s Bay when I first began fishing out of Steinhatchee. Over the past few years I can probably count the number of Redfish that I’ve landed on my two hands. It’s not a problem that happened suddenly. It’s been a gradual decline over years, and it will likely take years for numbers to recover. At least things are on the right track, and I look forward to seeing a positive turn around in the Redfish populations in the coming years.

The FWC is also meeting in June to discuss the same change in the Redfish catch limits for the Northeast zone as well, which I think is a great idea. Make sure to speak up and voice your opinion on these regulation changes!



Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Florida Lowers Limits To Increase Redfish Numbers

  1. The other issue is poor water quality in our estuaries. I have seen an almost total loss of grasses in Choctawhatchee Bay over the last 10 years. Where there is no grass, there is no crabs and where there are no crabs, there are no fish.

    • You are correct Eric. I didn’t touch on this because I didn’t want to stray on a tangent but his is a huge issue as well. Poor water quality and prop damage are ruining grass flats everywhere. I need to do some more research, but I’m looking at writing up something on this matter as well.

  2. not that it matters much but I believe the slot is 18″>27″ I release all I catch anyway and was very happy to see the change.

  3. That’s why I get it the grass estuaries with a kayak, it saves on prop damage and pollution from engines, I went yesterday and caught and released 10 to 12 in the slot.Never seen so many Reds in one area!!. it was lots of fun… Need more Kayak Fishing!!!!

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