A reminder: On July 21, 2007, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission adopted new rules related to snook. The entire state is now subject to a one-fish daily bag limit per person. Florida’s Gulf Coast, Everglades National Park, and Monroe County waters now have a slot limit of 28-33 inches (pinched-tail) in total length. Florida’s Atlantic coast has a one-inch tighter slot of 28-32 inches. The period when you can keep snook has also changed. Snook season will close on Dec. 1 in the Gulf, Everglades, and Monroe County and reopen March 1. The months of May, June, July and August remain closed. On the Atlantic side, the season closes on December 15 and reopens February 1. East Coast anglers get an extra month in which to keep snook. May remains open and June, July, and August are closed. A related rule change: boaters can now carry more than one cast net on board while fishing for snook. Before this change, anglers who had a snook in their possession and more than one net on board were subject to a fine.
In addition to a standard saltwater license, anglers need to buy a $2 snook permit if they plan to keep snook. Snatch-hooking and spearing snook are of course illegal, as is the purchase or sale of snook. These rules apply in federal waters, as well.
Some anglers are ticked off and even vocal about the tightening rules. They need to wake the hell up. Not so long ago, snook populations had dwindled, the resource was in trouble, and large fish were hard to find. Gamefish are a finite resource that must be protected — anyone who hasn’t digested that fact has been under a rock for a few decades. Folks who keep the occasional fish are within the bounds of the law. They just need to obey the rules…and maybe consider the notion that there are more meaningful reasons to fish than dragging home a stiff carcass. As for anglers who DO follow these guidelines, or who keep no fish at all: my hat’s off to you. But it’s not enough. You need to keep your eyes open for violations, and report individuals who defy the laws the rest of us follow. They deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.