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FWC shuts off local snook harvest until the Spring

Posted at 6:48 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 18:51:25-04

PELICAN BAY, Fla. — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says red tide means they've cut the snook fishing harvesting season short from parts of Sarasota to Collier counties.

Fishermen were thrilled when September 1st hit and slot snook were able to be harvested, only to have that season is now closed until at least March for many local waterways. An employee at a local bait shop, Pelican Bay Outfitters, says to the surprise of many, a lot of charter boat captains are in favor of the closure.

“Our captains do not want it open, specifically because the population is how it was before let’s say before red tide,” said Camille Lumbert of Pelican Bay

Inside Pelican Bay Outfitters, Lumbert is hearing from regular anglers firsthand as well.

Of course, all my guys coming into the bait shop, they like to catch snook and obviously miss eating it,” Lumbert.

How do both sides feel, about the FWC shutting down snook season?

While FWC has said recovery from red tide caused this; many people feel the real reason is some people not following rules.

“A lot of people around here get away with it. We are not going to hear about it. We do try to enforce people to look at the regulations periodically because they can change overnight,” said Lumbert.

That means while fishing is allowed from Venice Beach in Sarasota County down to Vanderbilt Beach in Collier County, fish there can only be targeted, but must be released.

“It is kind of what everyone has been asking. Why is it closed here I could drive down there and catch them? It is like…we are not too sure. Everyone wants to keep their catch and release, which isn’t a bad thing for the future,” said Lumbert.

With the future in mind, the sustainability of the species is something Lumbert knows many guides as well as the FWC are focused on.

“They are not a fast-producing fish, let us say like a Mahi is,” said Lumbert. “So, it could take a while for that same population to get back to where it was before Red Tide came.”

Lumbert says they have seen hundreds of over-slot snook near their docks, which is a sign that there are healthy breeder fish to grow the population. Fox 4 did also get a comment from FWC about the closure of the season which says…

“Snook will remain catch and release in the Charlotte Harbor region in response to ongoing concerns about habitat conditions within Charlotte Harbor, which was the epicenter of the red tide events over the past several years, and how this will impact inshore fish species.

Despite the closure of Snook season, other popular gamefish like Redfish are still open for local anglers. FWC tells me that snook season for Charlotte Harbor is set to open again on March 1st.