© St. Petersburg Times, published March 24, 2002
With water temperatures at the magical mark of 72 degrees, the fishing action, inshore and offshore, is about to explode.
King mackerel are showing up in good numbers, just in time for tournament season, and snook, hungry after months of light feeding, soon will be ready to eat.
But if you target linesiders this spring, remember there is a new bag limit and closed season. Anglers may keep one snook and the season is closed in May, as well as June through August.
Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission determined there are two genetically distinct snook populations, one in the Atlantic and one in the gulf, and they differ in movement and growth rates.
Atlantic snook grow more slowly during the first four years, but become larger than their gulf counterparts. One of three snook caught by Atlantic anglers is a keeper, and one of nine is a keeper in southwest Florida. There are also differences in catch rates. In 2000, gulf anglers caught about 1.3-million snook, and Atlantic anglers caught 470,000.
Fishery managers hope the new regulations will help restore snook populations to their historic levels. For more information on the regulations, pick up a copy of the Florida Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations from a local bait shop or the FWC, or check out marinefisheries.org or floridamarine.org.
SPRING TURKEY: There is still time to get a spring gobbler. Turkey season opened March 16 in the state's central and north hunting zones (north of State Road 70 to the Georgia line). Hunters have until April 21 to bag an elusive Osceola turkey, but before you do, pick up a copy of Florida's Hunting Handbook because regulations can vary in individual wildlife management areas.
The statewide bag limit is one bearded turkey or gobbler per day and two per season. Hunters may use modern firearms, bows and arrows, muzzleloaders, crossbows and handguns.
MARINEQUEST: The Florida Marine Research Institute will hold its Eighth Annual MarineQuest, an open house to showcase the institute's various programs and facilities, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 20. Call (727) 896-8626 for more information.
FREE FISHING DAYS: The FWC has designated April 6-7 as Free Freshwater Fishing Weekend in Florida. During the weekend, anyone, including nonresidents, may sport-fish in any public freshwater lake or river without a license.
RED TIDE UPDATE: In the southwest region (Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor) concentrations of the Florida Red Tide microalgae Karenia brevis are almost back to normal levels. There is no bloom along the coastline. The dark brown-black-green water mass reported offshore between Naples and Key West is being evaluated. The Naples Daily News reported the black water was first spotted in January and is moving into the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. To monitor this issue, go to floridamarine.org and click on Red Tide.