Coastal Comeback of Florida Fish

In areas along most of Florida's coasts, many species of fish have made an amazing recovery since the net ban in 1995. Prior to the net ban, the take of Pompano had threatened to wipe the species out. Likewise, the take of mullet and trout was into the hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.

In 1995, a measure approved by a 70% majority banned inshore netting (with only a few exceptions) statewide, and an almost immediate effect was seen in the fish populations.

While it is true that there are still large numbers of commercial poachers catching fish illegally in Florida waters, and an even more perplexing number of commercial interests that are determined to circumvent the laws, the effect of the ban is positive. Some fishermen are using tarp nets and claiming they are legal, and others are using various methods to attach nets to ropes. Still others using small toy boats carried aboard their fishing vessel to claim they are "using 2 boats".

At least a part of the enforcement issue is the fish house processor's willingness to buy and process illegal fish.

Having said all this, many recreation fishermen are having very good catches of fish that were in short supply just a few years ago. Numbers of trout in most areas have increased dramatically, with the possible exception of those areas in the northwest that are still heavily fished by commerc ial interests. Fishermen on the west coast are being treated to many more Pompano, and the Mullet population has rebounded nicely. Numbers of Mackerel near the passes are up as well, and the increase can be directly attributed to the net ban, and also to the numbers of available baitfish which have rebounded right along with the foodfish. Reduced bycatch is a further benefit of the net ban. We can only hope that our lawmakers will see that the law as intended is not being fully enforced, yet it is having a dramatic positive effect on the fish populations.

At the time of this writing, spring 2003, there are a couple of serious programs aimed at doing stocking. Texas has produced numbers of Reds in recent years, and Florida has been doing more in this regard as well. Research is underway to determine the survival rate of Reds that are released as fingerlings vs older fish, and the very fact that this reseach is happening is a good sign the Florida finally "gets it". Article By Mike Lott

Last Update: 4/8/2003
Web Author: Mike Lott/Bruce Clark
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