New Tarpon and Bonefish Regulations in Florida

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Kent does the right thing  Photo by Louis Cahill

Kent does the right thing Photo by Louis Cahill

For those of us who care about bonefish and tarpon, a big victory was won on Wednesday.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to adopt catch-and-release regulations for tarpon and bonefish in state and federal waters off of Florida. They have also voted to move forward on new gear restrictions aimed at cleaning up some of the shit show in Boca Grand Pass. That topic will be addressed at their meeting in September.

We applaud their action and thank all of you who spoke out in favor of this new regulation.

According to The Outdoor Wire:

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 IGFA record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.

Tarpon tags will be limited to one per person, per year (except for charter boat 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.

I’m thrilled at this decision on the part of the FWC. It is a huge step but reading this, I can’t help but think there is much work left to do. With regulation and enforcement we can, to some extent, control people’s actions but meaningful change will only come with a change in their hearts.

What I mean by this is, if folks are out in Boca Grand Pass trying to snag tarpon, something is still deeply wrong. Clearly, that’s a blatant lack of sportsmanship that will turn any anglers stomach but if you read the subtext, there is more going on.

In Florida’s new regulation every exception to true catch and release is for the purpose of competitive fishing. I am on the record as being against competitive fishing at any level. I don’t want to spend a day on the stream with some jack ass who wants to prove he’s better than me and I sure don’t want him killing a tarpon to get his name in a book. A friend put it to me in kinder words just the other day.

“Competition, of any kind, always brings out the worst in people.”

That is a truism that’s been proven time and again. The IFGA record exemption and the tournament exemption loopholes will be abused just as all loopholes are abused and it will do harm. The tarpon tag should be eliminated completely. True catch-and -release should be the law.

The FWC made their decision based on the idea that the economic and fishing value of bonefish and tarpon greatly exceed their value as food fishes. That is true. You might even say obvious but hears why it bothers me. As long as we weigh fish against dollars, dollars will win. At some point we, the people, and our public representatives must learn that we have a moral responsibility to do what is right, not what is fiscally beneficial.

There are always cost, tangible and intangible, attached to our decisions. Often doing the right thing costs money, jobs, votes etc., but it is still the right thing and the costs of doing the wrong thing is great.

Do the right thing. Practice catch and release. Support catch and release regulation in all waters.

I’d like to personally say thank you to the readers who shared their support of Florida’s new regulations with the FWC. You made a difference.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “New Tarpon and Bonefish Regulations in Florida

  1. Louis,
    Thanks for the update. But mostly thanks for your earlier post with the write-in info, I’m sure it added a bit more needed pressure on the FWC. You’re right on here, this is great news but more could have been done. The fact is that poor regulation and enforcement has been detrimental to bothe of these species, and we needed to do a complete 180 in order to really have a chance to undo the damage that has been done. As for enforcement, lets hope the FWC can step that game up as well, I’m sure their resources are limited, but the enforcement HAS to be as solid as the regulations, otherwise the laws are useless.
    Keep up the great work! I don’t think there’s a blog out there that covers as much ground as you guys….and does it so well.

    • Amen brother. And even with perfect regulation and enforcement there’s work to be done. Regulation on development and building odes for example. It’s a long road but this is great progress.

  2. ” boca grande shit show” well said as that is exactly what it is and its time that kind of idiocy ends.

  3. Your blog post is absurd and makes me want to become a tarpon killer just to prove a point. Competition brings out the worst in people? Are you dumb, broke, and on food stamps?

    • I really don’t care what you think of me. As for protecting game fish, I stand by my post. I’d like to thank you for making my point about competitive ass holes so completely clear.

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