News Releases

FWC improves weakfish management

News Release

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Media contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554

(Back to Commission meeting news)

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 apply.

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 demarcation line.

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 remains unchanged.

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 July.



FWC Facts:
Today, smalltooth sawfish are found only in the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to the Bahamas, including southwest Florida Gulf Coast.

Learn More at AskFWC