Saltwater finfish size limits are expressed in Total Length and Fork Length.
How do I measure fish that have ragged-edge type tail filaments, such as scamp, yellowmouth grouper, or black sea bass?
For fish that have "ragged-edge" type filaments, these "pieces" of the tail should be included in the measurement of total length, which is implied by stating that the fish be measured to the "farthest tip of the tail" in the definition for total length.
Should you pinch the tail at both ends of the slot for fish that have a slot limit?
History of Finfish Measurement in Florida
The state of Florida has wrestled with how to measure saltwater finfish since 1925. In 1925 the Legislature first enacted length measurements for marine finfish. Many different methods have been used over the years (1925-1973) including: tip of nose to fork of tail, tip of nose to tip of tail, tip of nose to end of tail, and tip of nose to rear center edge of tail. At any one time, one or all of these definitions were used. In the late 1980s, both a total length and a fork length size limit were listed in rule for some species. By the mid 1990s, only one measure was chosen for most species primarily based on the way federal regulations specified how the species should be measured. In 2006, the FWC clarified the definition of total length as having a pinched tail and closed mouth. Prior to that, FWC rules did not consistently state how to obtain total length, leaving this measurement open to interpretation by anglers and law enforcement officers.
Why aren't all fish measured by a single method?
At the present time, most of the regulated species in Florida are measured by either a total length or fork length method. The method chosen depends on the shape of the tail and primarily on the consistency with federal regulations. Consistency with federal regulations is very important for the enforcement of state and federal size limits.
If you have further questions please contact the Division of Marine Fisheries Management at 850-487-0554.