Florida wants your opinion on proposed bass regulation change

Photo courtesy of Trevor Fitzgerald
Florida bass have a special reputation for being huge. The FWC is seeking input on a proposed regulation change that may help protect the state's biggest bass.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking your input in a proposed regulation change for bass. The change would make it so that a five-fish daily bag limit could include only one bass longer than 16 inches. Please take 3 minutes to make your opinion known here before June 30.

Many support Florida’s proposed regulation change for bass, according to Eamon Bolten, Florida B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director.

“We agree that this is a good revision to the current creel limits for black bass, as bigger, better quality bass are what both recreational and tournament anglers want to see,” he said.

“The harvesting of smaller fish will often help larger fish grow even bigger as they will have less competition for forage. This also will help reaffirm Florida’s reputation as the place to catch those monster bass.”

As it continues to collect angler feedback through an online survey and public meetings, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recommends keeping the five-fish bag limit as is. But it would eliminate varying size limits in favor of one statewide for most fisheries: Each angler would be allowed to keep up to five bass of less than 16 inches or four bass of less than 16 and one more than 16.

Currently, a 14-inch minimum length limit is in place for south and east of the Suwannee River, while a 12-inch minimum exists for north and west. In other words, an angler can keep smaller bass now, but he also can keep four more trophy bass than would be allowed under the proposed change.

“Biological data show that protecting these smaller fish is not necessary,” said FWC. “Furthermore, different size limits complicate regulations.

“What is advantageous is protecting bigger fish, which are rarer and take longer to produce, hence the proposed harvest limit of one bass 16 inches or longer per day.”

Only in the south fishing zone (east of Highway 441 and south of State Road 80) would the proposed regulation be more lenient than the current rule. There, only one bass of more than 14 inches is allowed at present.

FWC added that limited exceptions for specific waters “that have special needs or opportunities” still would be possible, such as high-profile, catch-and-release fisheries that need such a management approach, or even more liberal regulations where bass may be overabundant.

“Those would be limited exceptions and generally associated with fish management areas,” the agency continued. “In addition, it is important to note that there is no intent to alter the simple Bass Tournament Exemption Permit Process.”

From a survey of more than bass 7,500 anglers in 2011, FWC learned that only 16 percent normally eat the bass they catch, while 57 percent are happy if they don’t keep any bass. Additionally, 57 percent did not want to increase the bag limit, while 21 percent wanted to reduce it. “Because a five-bass daily bag limit is sustainable, there is not a recommendation to change it,” the agency said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to hear from you. Please answer the survey questions here.

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