FWC proposes catch-and-release only for bonefish
Last week, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed draft rules that would allow only catch-and-release fishing for bonefish, a premier saltwater game fish in Florida.
The proposed rules would also establish new provisions regarding the possession of bonefish by anglers and the possession and transport of bonefish during bonefish fishing tournaments.
“Bonefish are an extremely valuable Florida game fish,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “These proposed rules will further protect bonefish populations in South Florida, while providing anglers with opportunities to document a record catch and enjoy the exciting action of bonefish fishing tournaments.”
Bonefish are prized by anglers because they are stealthy, fast-swimming fish that are exciting and challenging to catch. South Florida is one of the few places in the United States where anglers can fish for bonefish, and the shallow saltwater flats of the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay are considered a world-class destination for catching large, trophy-sized bonefish. A recent study by scientists at the University of Miami estimated the value of a single bonefish in the Florida Keys to be $3,500 each year, and nearly $75,000 over the lifespan of the fish.
Based on bonefish’s economic value as a game fish, the FWC’s proposed draft rules would eliminate the one-fish daily bag limit for bonefish and allow only catch-and-release fishing. Most anglers already release the bonefish they catch as a conservation measure.
The proposed rules would also allow anglers to temporarily possess a bonefish where it is caught, so they can photograph and measure or weigh the fish to document a possible record catch.
In addition, the proposed rules would allow anglers participating in specially permitted tournaments to temporarily possess and transport bonefish to tournament check-in stations for weigh-in under specified conditions. These fish would still have to be carefully handled and eventually released.
More information regarding the FWC’s bonefish draft rule proposal is available online at www.MyFWC.com/Commission, and a final public hearing on these rule proposals will take place in April.