Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FWC's New Redfish Culling Exception Should Be the Rule

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FWC's New Redfish Culling Exception Should Be the Rule

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

Now that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has conferred special status upon tournament redfishermen, it should consider doing the same for the rest of us.

At its meeting last week at Amelia Island, the FWC adopted a proposal that allows participants in certain redfish tournaments to catch, hold and release redfish -- the key word being hold. Those tournament anglers will be able to hold a fish in their live well and later release it if they catch another, more desirable red.

It's commonly called culling, and it's a practice that has been going on inside and outside of tournaments for years. Only recently, though, did someone notice that it was technically illegal. According to Florida law, a fish not immediately released after being caught -- a fish placed in a live well, for instance -- is considered to be in possession and therefore harvested.

Because the daily bag limit on reds is one per person, once you place that red in your live well, that's your fish for the day.

That rule still applies to most of the redfishing fraternity, but now tournaments that qualify for a permit will be exempt.

Tournament organizers made a convincing case before the FWC, citing the low redfish mortality rates in their events and the measures they take to keep fish alive. Jacksonville's Rick Hale, who runs the Redfish Shootout series of local tournaments, said that over the past two years, only 14 reds have been lost in his events, an average mortality of 1.4 per tournament.

The FWC reasoned that, under tightly controlled conditions, tournaments deserved an exemption.

Commissioners set standards for tournaments to meet in order to qualify for a permit, including a field of at least 50 participants, an approved release site, an on-site aerated recovery holding tank, documentation of all fish weighed-in and a minimum boat live well size of 18 gallons.

The original proposal called for a minimum 25-gallon live well. But tournament fishermen argued that most small boats aren't built with wells that large, and that smaller, properly aerated wells have been proven to be effective. …

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