© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2002
Snook season opens Friday, and anglers should remember a daily one-fish limit is in effect for snook caught along the Gulf Coast and the Florida Keys.
Anglers also should note that snook season will close in May in those areas.
State officials approved the new snook regulations in November to reduce fishing pressure in an effort to increase the number of legal-sized fish.
State biologists have determined that Florida's Atlantic and gulf snook populations are genetically distinct, differing in their movement patterns and growth rates. These distinctions led to the changes in rules on the west coast, where fishing pressure is greater.
The new rules allow a daily bag limit of one snook per person in all waters of Monroe County, the Gulf of Mexico and Everglades National Park in the open season. Taking snook is not allowed in those areas Dec. 15-Jan. 31 and May-August. A two-snook limit remains in all waters of the Atlantic north and east of the Dade-Monroe county line. The Atlantic closed season is Dec. 15-Jan. 31 and June-August.
The slot limit for snook remains 26-34 inches. Anglers fishing with a recreational license also must have a $2 snook permit.
SCALLOP SEASON: Bay scallop lovers along the North Suncoast once again may be able to gather the tasty bivalves in waters south of the Suwannee River.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took a major step last week toward allowing the recreational harvest of these prized mollusks, which have been off limits in the region since 1995.
But scallopers in the western Panhandle may not be so lucky. Scallop numbers there are quite low, and the harvest likely will be closed this summer.
State biologists annually review the health of bay scallop populations, and recent surveys have shown increases. Bay scallop season runs July 1-Sept. 10 each year, and recreational harvest currently is allowed in all waters from the Florida/Alabama border to the Suwannee River.
According to the commission, the proposed rule would allow the recreational harvest of bay scallops from the Mexico Beach Canal (just west of the Bay-Gulf county line) to the Pasco-Hernando county line (near Aripeka).
Recreational harvesters are limited to 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of meat per day in the season. Bay scallops may be taken by hand or with a landing or dip net. There is no commercial harvest.
The commission will make a decision on the proposed rule in April.
TARPON STUDY: The commission's Florida Marine Research Institute will hold a public hearing this week to discuss an upcoming study of the hook-and-release tarpon fishery in Boca Grande Pass. Researchers will explain how the study will be conducted and what local guides can do to help.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the institute at 100 Eighth Ave. SE in St. Petersburg. For more information call Allison McDonald at (727) 896-8626 ext. 2076 or log on to www.floridamarine.org and click on Tarpon Hook and Release Study.