• Overlapping federal and state fisheries and wildlife management meetings are on tap this week in Florida and North Carolina.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council might adopt important grouper and snapper measures during its session Monday through Friday in Wilmington, N.C. Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Apalachicola, will consider whether to create game fish and sport fish designations that could later be used to conserve some of Florida’s prime fisheries.
The South Atlantic council is expected to vote on snapper/grouper regulatory amendment 15, which would establish a commercial closure during the spawning season for yellowtail and adjust the annual catch limit upward to reflect the health of the stock. The amendment also eases up on the mandatory closure of all commercial shallow-water grouper harvest when the annual catch limit for gag grouper is reached. If adopted, the measure would be sent to the Secretary of Commerce for approval.
In other action, council members will consider adoption of snapper/ grouper amendment 28, which includes alternatives for allowing a limited harvest of red snapper in 2013 and beyond. The fishery has been closed to commercial and recreational fishers since January 2010, except for a brief, statewide mini-season last September.
At the FWC meeting, commissioners will talk about a proposed “game fish” designation for some saltwater species that would prohibit commercial harvest and sale, make hook-and-line gear the sole method of harvest, and prohibit charter captains and crews from being counted in the recreational bag limit. A second “sport fish” category would mean catch-and-release only; no recreational or commercial harvest or sale; and mandate hook-and-line gear only.
Commissioners will stop short of putting any species in either category. First, they will hold two public hearings by webinar from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 12. Anglers and others may go to http://fwc.adobeconnect.com/mfm/ to participate, or call 850-617-9627 if they have no Internet access.
The commission also is expected to discuss possibilities for the 2013 gag grouper recreational season in the Gulf; the proposed addition of two new public hunting areas in the southwest region for the 2013-14 season; and the statewide alligator harvest program.
• In other fisheries management news, NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a draft amendment on management of Atlantic sharks. Draft amendment 5 includes preferred alternatives that include time/area closures of commercial longlining in certain hot spots to protect overfished dusky sharks; increasing the recreational minimum size from 54 inches to 96 inches (fork length) for all sharks; and establishment of a nontournament reporting system for hammerheads.
NOAA says the measures arose from recent findings that sandbar, dusky, Atlantic blacknose, and scalloped hammerheads all are overfished.
Public hearings are expected to be set in the coming months. The deadline for comments is Feb. 12.
• The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council will hold an all-day meeting in Key West on Dec. 11 to discuss marine zoning options for sanctuary waters. The panel may decide to create new marine zoning areas to protect fish, coral and wildlife, or move the boundaries of existing zones. The meeting — at the Grand Key Resort — also will include a presentation by back country fishing guides and personal watercraft industry members on matters of mutual interest. There will be time for public comment.
No new management measures or regulations are expected to be implemented before October 2013.
• Officials of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles Broward and Palm Beach counties, will hold a scoping meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 on management of recreational fisheries. The meeting is at the Wellington Community High School Performing Arts Room, 2101 Greenview Shores Blvd., Wellington.
Two former editors at Florida Sportsman magazine have just launched “Fly & Light Tackle Angler” — an e-magazine for the Apple iPad and iPad Mini. The first issue of the new, interactive digital offering is available in the Apple iTunes app store. Editors Mike Conner and Terry Gibson say they will put out six new issues in 2013. Covering freshwater and saltwater fly-fishing and inshore fishing with both live and artificial baits, the interactive publication uses video, audio and animation to accompany feature stories, and hot links to advertisers’ websites.
Readers can participate through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. For more information, visit flyandlighttackleangler.com.