FWC Rulings: Tarpon, Bonefish, and Snook

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionTarpon and Bonefish

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission met today in Lakeland, Florida, and reached a number of decisions pertinent to Saltwater Nation anglers. Key among these are the approval of a proposal to make tarpon and bonefish catch-and-release only and to modify the allowable gear used for tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. They also decided to change the way fisheries regulations will be written for clarity.

Arguing that tarpon and bonefish have more economic value as gamefish than as food fish, the Commission approved the following changes beginning September 1, 2013:

  • 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.

The Commission also approved modifying the tarpon tag program by eliminating the 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 also go into effect September 1, 2013.

The Commission also moved forward with plans to adjust regulations regarding gear used to catch tarpon. Statewide, the new regulations will eliminate the snagging of tarpon, instead identifying the only legal way to catch a tarpon as through enticement to take a hook. Perhaps more important, the Commission also voted to move forward with changes to gear regulations for tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. If passed the new regulation would ban fishing for tarpon inside the Pass with gear that has a weight attached to the bottom of a hook. These two proposed gear regulations will be discussed further in a final public hearing at the FWC meeting September 4-6, 2013, in Pensacola. To read the full Commission report about the tarpon and bonefish regulations click here.


Commissioners also voted to reopen the Gulf of Mexico recreational snook harvest beginning September 1, 2013. When the season opens, all regulations regarding size, bag limits, gear regulations, and closed seasons will be in effect. This includes the one-fish-per-person, per-day bag limit, the 28- to 33-inch total length slot limit and the two annual closures in Gulf waters, which will be from December 1, 2013 through February 28, 2104 and May 1, 2014 through August 31, 2014.

The FWC closed recreational snook fishing in 2010 following a cold snap that killed many juvenile snook.

The Atlantic recreational snook season will also open September 1, 2013. This season closes annually from June 1 through August 31 and from December 15 through January 31. The slot limit for Atlantic harvest is 28 to 32 inches total length.

The FWC will reassess snook fisheries in 2015. To read the complete Commission report about snook, click here.


Commissioners also approved measures to make marine fisheries regulations easier to read, understand, and enforce. They approved a proposal that will revise marine fisheries information in portions of 68B of the Florida Administrative Code, providing consistency among regulations and clarifying complex and confusing language. These changes go into effect September 1, 2013. To read the Commissioners’ full report about these revisions, click here.



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