FWC improves weakfish management
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Media contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
(Back to Commission meeting
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) approved draft rule amendments on Thursday to
conform to an interstate fisheries management plan for weakfish.
The plan is to help rebuild depleted weakfish stocks along the
nation's Atlantic Coast while eliminating unnecessary weakfish
regulations in most of Florida. These new rules also help
rectify weakfish identification issues in Northeast Florida.
Weakfish live off the Atlantic Coast from
Massachusetts to Florida, although the major fishery occurs from
North Carolina to New York. In Florida, weakfish occur only
in the extreme northeast part of the state.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a
compact of Atlantic Coastal states responsible for managing several
nearshore fisheries from Maine to Florida, has determined that
weakfish stocks are depleted along the entire Atlantic Coast.
As a result, it developed a management plan to reduce recreational
and commercial harvest of weakfish by more than 50 percent.
The plan requires Florida to reduce the daily
recreational bag limit for weakfish, also known as gray seatrout or
yellow-mouth trout, from four fish to one fish per person and
establish a commercial weakfish harvest limit of 100 pounds per
vessel per day or trip (whichever is longer).
In addition, weakfish and sand seatrout (which are
not regulated in Florida) look alike and live in waters off
Florida's Northeast Coast. Weakfish and sand seatrout
interbreed and have created a hybrid fish population. The two
distinct species are hard to tell apart, and the hybrid population
further complicates their identification and makes enforcement of
weakfish regulations difficult.
Consequently, the FWC is applying Florida's
weakfish management rules only in designated state waters of Nassau
County in Northeast Florida, where pure weakfish are mostly found.
In all other areas of Florida, the weakfish size limit,
recreational bag limit and commercial trip limit will no longer
The new weakfish management area includes state
waters from the shore out to three miles off Amelia Island and the
St. Marys River and its tributaries south to State Highway 200A and
the Shave Bridge on the Amelia River, as well as inland waters east
of U.S. 17 (about 20 miles inland), which is the saltwater
All weakfish-like fish (including weakfish, sand
seatrout and their hybrids) will be considered weakfish inside this
management area, and a one-fish recreational bag limit and
100-pound commercial trip limit applies in the designated
area. The current 12-inch minimum size limit for weakfish
More information regarding the new weakfish rules,
including a map of the weakfish management area, is available
online at MyFWC.com/Commission, linked from the June 23-24 meeting
agenda. These rules are expected to take effect sometime in