Starting Sunday, September 1st, tarpon and bonefish will be exclusively catch and release in the state of Florida, after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved these new measures at its June 12th meeting in Lakeland, Florida. This is a very important step in protecting these vitally important fisheries, a decision made because the FWC recognized the economic impact and recreational fishing value of bonefish and tarpon. According to a recent Bonefish and Tarpon Trust funded study, the Florida Keys flats fishery alone has an economic impact of $465 million dollars. To maintain a healthy fishery, it is important that all recreational anglers practice proper fish handling with bonefish and tarpon to increase post-release survival, including pinching barbs on hooks,landing and releasing fish quickly, and keeping the fish in the water whenever possible.
The new bonefish and tarpon regulations from the FWC. The following changes will go into effect Sept. 1 in state and federal waters off Florida:
- All harvest of tarpon will be eliminated, with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.
- Tarpon tags will be limited to one per person, per year except for properly licensed charter boat captains and fishing guides.
- Transport or shipment of tarpon becomes limited to one fish per person.
- There will be a one-fish-per-vessel limit for tarpon.
- Gear used for tarpon will be limited to hook-and-line only.
- Multiple hooks in conjunction with live or dead natural bait cannot be used to target or harvest tarpon, or to target bonefish.
- 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 allowed tournament anglers with the proper permit to temporarily possess bonefish for transport to a tournament scale.
To learn more about tarpon and bonefish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater” and “Recreational Regulations.”