FWC needs another gag grouper grand slam

Alan Lamarche

Alan Lamarche

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 05:06 PM.

The FWC takes a lot of hits from local fishermen and Big Bend coastal businesses for their perceived restrictive fishing rules that don't always seem to pass the "local" common sense test.

An FWC decision made last February during a meeting at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy got it right!

The commissioners’ decision to have a spring Gag Grouper season in four Big Bend counties received rave reviews from kids and business owners alike. Now everyone hopes they will add an early fall season in Big Bend state waters.

Ronald Fred Crum, owner of Crum’s Mini Mall in Panacea, has been coordinating "Kids Fishing Tournaments" for years, and he explained it this way, “The commission helped to ensure another generation of gag grouper fishers. If young fishermen can experience the exhilaration and thrill of catching a shallow water gag grouper when they are 10 to 15 years old, they are 'hooked' for life. They will eventually buy fishing licenses and become the next generation of off shore fishers."

I agree with Crum's assessment. I volunteer at the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center and introduce a lot of youngsters to shallow water gag grouper fishing. It’s been my experience that you can’t take kids at this young age 40-50 miles offshore on an eight-to-0 hour grouper fishing trip, because they don't “hold up” and a bad experience can “ruin them for life.”

These youngsters have a two-to-three hour attention span when it comes to gag grouper fishing. You need calm seas and lots of snacks, and you have to get them out there quickly, make sure they can still see land, and put them on a shallow water gag grouper to seal the deal. Once they feel the brute power of that grouper as it digs for the bottom, these kids become our next generation of offshore fishermen and women. We can't give kids this experience in the Big Bend state waters because all of our gag grouper leave by Thanksgiving and they come back just before Easter. By July 4, they are gone again until late September. The ideal "kids" gag season here is March-June, and September-November.

FWC uses "Regional Management" practices for redfish, trout and even deer to ensure optimal recreational opportunities for shareholders. There is no reason why the commission shouldn't apply this same local management style to our grouper and snapper. After all, Florida state waters vary tremendously in habitat, depth and fishing pressure from one end to the other, just like they vary from the East coast to the Gulf Coast.

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