Would you support a closed season on redfish? After what transpired last week, the popular opinion might be yes.
This realization occurred when a fake news story on a website that describes itself as, “An entertainment website, news created by users. These are humorous news, fantasy, fictional, that should not be seriously taken or as a source of information.” The headline was eye catching. “Florida FWC considers closed redfish fishing season.”
So, of course, people took the story seriously and the story spread with hundreds of shares from fishing groups, casual anglers and local charter captains.
The reason? Most agreed with the message it portrayed, fake or not.
“This is a good thing,” posted respected Bradenton captain Jason Stock. “Give the redfish a chance to recoup numbers. A lot of schools are getting worked over and harvested.”
About five to seven years ago the amount of redfish around Tampa and Sarasota Bay was astonishing. From the spring until the fall, it was catch as many redfish as you wanted from dozens of schools that patrolled the flats. Captains had clients saying they were getting bored of cranking on the hard fighters non-stop.
These days you’re lucky to find a few redfish, nevertheless a school of hundreds. And when a big school is found, the boats soon follow, and the fish are targeted day after day until they leave or are kept if legal size.
For this reason, many anglers are encouraging a closed season.
“Fine by me, I pretty much release all my inshore fish,” said angler Jay.
“I’m for it, they closed snook for four years, and look how they rebounded! Redfish are overfished,” said St. Petersburg Capt. Chris Wiggins.
“Fewest reds in our region that I have experienced in my 35-year career,” said Naples captain Todd Geroy.
I don’t think overfishing is the only reason they have left in high numbers. Weather changes, water quality changes, and there are no walls in the ocean.
Redfish are not stationary, and they appear at various times of the year. It’s possible that schools of fish are still out “there,” waiting to come “here” as has happened as long as fish could swim. The late summer and fall is typically the best redfishing of the year, so it will be telling after the August full moon in two weeks if schools of the drum are or are not prevalent in our area.
When and if this happens, will those schools receive a crazy amount of pressure from dozens of boats at a time each taking a fish or two or three home at a time? It’s no secret why a school of 100 legal-sized fish may vanish in a few days if every boat that is catching them takes home their portion.
I’m of the belief that inshore and flats fish are the most highly pressured and targeted and are worth more alive than they are as table fare. I’ll never stop someone from keeping what they are legally allowed to take, but even a legal redfish, snook or trout caught by me will make its way back into the water if able.
These three species have limited habitat and probably the highest “angler to fish” ratio than anything else that swims locally. If you want something to take home, go catch a grouper or a few snapper. They taste better and there are a lot more of them with no immediate threat of disappearing.
I’ve seen many captains that refused to keep snook on their boats following the snook freeze nearly ten years ago. That is very valiant. Perhaps it’s time we treat redfish in the same manner to see if it helps our local fisheries.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data