Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Staying Legal Between the Lines with Mangrove Snapper

Grey or Mangrove snapper are one of the most sought after recreational fish in southwest Florida. They will take a variety of baits, are good eating, and are relatively easy to catch even for novice anglers. In addition, they can be found in virtually all coastal and offshore habitats from mangroves (as their name implies) out to natural ledges and artificial reefs in deeper waters. Because of their versatility, anglers often target these popular fish in both state and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

While many Gulf species have the same fishing regulations for state and federal waters, this is not the case for mangrove snapper. For Florida state waters, which extend out to nine nautical miles in the Gulf, the minimum size limit is 10 inches total length with a daily bag limit of five fish per angler. In Gulf federal waters, which extend beyond 9 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles however, the mangrove snapper minimum size limit is 12 inches and the daily bag limit is 10 fish per angler.

Here lies the potential problem. If an angler caught his/her legal bag limit of mangrove snapper in federal waters and then stopped to fish in state waters, they'd be breaking the law by having five fish over the state bag limit. Regardless of an angler's intentions it would be difficult to prove the fish were caught in federal waters, which could result in fines for each fish over the bag limit.
 Fortunately, there is an easy solution to avoid these potential penalties. DO NOT STOP!  According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission anglers must directly return to land without stopping once they re-enter state waters when returning from federal waters in possession of fish that have different federal and state regulations. In addition, an angler should also be mindful if he/she is in possession of a 10 or 11 inch mangrove snapper legally caught in state waters and then heads out to federal waters. In this case, they would be in possession of an undersized mangrove snapper according to federal rules and could face federal fines if stopped.
Keeping a current copy of state and federal regulations on board your boat is always recommended to help you fish legally and avoid any unnecessary citations.  Both state and federal regulations can be downloaded from online at the following sites.

Florida state recreational fishing regulations:

Gulf of Mexico federal recreational fishing regulations:

Note that the Gulf Council now has fishing regulations apps for both the iPhone and Droid smart phones http://www.gulfcouncil.org/index.php

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