Fishing for reef fish? FWC approves new hook regulations

FWC announces new hook requirements.
FWC announces new hook requirements.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved new hook requirements in Atlantic state waters. The new requirements are intended to improve reef fish catch-and-release survival rates and continue to encourage the use of best fishing practices. These practices help reef fish survive when caught and released.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, anglers using hook-and-line with natural baits to target reef fish like snapper or grouper in Atlantic state waters. Areas north of 28 degrees north latitude (near Melbourne) will require non-offset circle hooks and non-stainless-steel hooks south of 28 degrees north latitude. non-offset circle hooks.

These changes are consistent with requirements in Atlantic federal waters that recently took effect. Non-stainless-steel, non-offset circle hooks are already required when fishing for reef fish in Gulf state waters and have been a successful tool in minimizing the number of fish that do not survive release.

New FWC hook requirements in the Atlantic.
New FWC hook requirements in the Atlantic.

“We hope that these new hook requirements, along with emphasizing best fishing practices through our educational resources and strategic messaging, will help empower anglers to conserve fisheries for the future,” said Commissioner Mike Sole.

“Although not required, it’s also important to have a venting tool or descending device ready to use in case you need to release a fish that is impacted by barotrauma,” Sole added.

Getting fish back into the water as quickly as possible is essential for fish survival. FWC encourages using tools such as descending devices and venting tools when barotrauma occurs so long as they do not prolong release. To learn more about proper fish handling techniques, visit MyFWC.com/FishHandling.

Non-stainless-steel hooks should degrade faster in the marine environment compared to stainless steel or other non-corrodible metals. The use of these hooks may ultimately improve survival if the line is broken or the hook cannot be removed. It will increase a fish’s chance to shed the hook over time.

Additionally, non-offset circle hooks more often hook fish in the mouth than the gut, which reduces internal harm to the fish, decreases the de-hooking time for the angler, and minimizes damage to the fish’s organs.

Allowing the use of other types of non-stainless-steel hooks south of 28 degrees north latitude accommodates for regionally-important south Florida fisheries, such as yellowtail snapper, in which the use of J hooks allows for greater efficiency and reduces discard mortality.

For the full Oct. 7-8 agenda, including links to background reports, go to MyFWC.com/About and click on “The Commission” and “Commission Meetings.”

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland and raised in Jupiter, Florida. Andy has been a radio & TV personality since the 1980s. He has worked for WLIZ, WFLX-FOX 29, WIRK, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and WJNO to name a few. After spending 7 years in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1990s, Andy returned to Florida and settled in the small town of Sebastian in 2000. In 2005, he returned to the broadcasting news sector and eventually joined our news team in 2016 as editor in chief. Andy's family has lived in Sebastian for more than 45 years.