Over the past week, individuals and organizations across the US have been asking bonefish and tarpon advocates to make their voices heard to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission which was scheduled to meet yesterday to consider new regulations that would place tarpon and bonefish under strict catch and release only protections. The efforts of those who took the time to contact the commission to advocate for those protections have paid dividends, as FWC officials approved yesterday new rules preventing the harvesting of tarpon and bonefish.
The new regulations also introduce new protections regarding the handling of both tarpon and bonefish. The rules now require that tarpon over 40" not be removed from the water at any time. Weighing, measurement, scientific sampling and photography of these large tarpon must be completed with the fish still in the water. Tarpon under 40" may be temporarily possessed out of the water for these activities, but must subsequently be returned to the water unharmed. Bonefish will see increased protection from the removal of a tournament exception that previously allowed bonefish to be possessed by tournament anglers for transport to a tournament scale.
The commission's efforts to protect tarpon were further extended through clarification of what types of tackle and fishing methods are allowed by anglers in pursuit of tarpon. Targeting tarpon with a seine or cast net is no longer allowed, the new rules allow only targeting with hook and line.
Furthermore, according to the FWC, "the Commission also moved forward with a two-part proposal that would include adding language to the current statewide snagging definition and modifying what types of gear could be used to target tarpon in Boca Grande Pass. The proposal would add language that prohibits catching or attempting to catch tarpon that have not been attracted or enticed by the angler’s gear to the snagging definition that applies statewide. This change would apply to tarpon fishing statewide. The second part of the proposal would prohibit fishing with gear that has a weight attached to the bottom of a hook. This change would apply to fishing for all species year-round within Boca Grande Pass."
Tarpon regulations also extend into federal waters.
The new rules do include one exception allowing the harvest of tarpon. In the event that an angler is in pursuit of an IGFA record and has purchased a tarpon tag. Tarpon tags are also now limited to one per person, per year.