OUTDOORS

Outdoors notebook: Tarpon tournament awaits ruling

 

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in Pensacola, could take final action that would effectively put the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, held in Southwest Florida’s Boca Grande Pass in spring and summer, out of business.

Nearly all anglers in the televised catch-and-release tournament use circle hooks with weighted jigs attached at the bottom to hook tarpon. But commissioners concluded at a June meeting in Lakeland that the gear snags the fish rather than enticing them to bite.

The commission Thursday will discuss a final rule that would enhance the definition of snagging and prohibit the kinds of jigs now used in the Pass to catch tarpon.

Also, a new rule designating tarpon and bonefish as catch-and-release only species takes effect Sunday statewide.

The new measures: eliminate all harvest of tarpon in state waters unless it’s in pursuit of a world record and in conjunction with a tag; limit tags to one per person per year except for licensed fishing guides; allow temporary possession of small tarpon for photography and measurement while tarpon greater than 40 inches must be kept in the water; and eliminate an exemption allowing tournament anglers to transport bonefish to weigh scales.

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    Off-road vehicles such as swamp buggies, street-legal 4x4s, ATVs and UTVs will be allowed back in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Friday, marking the end of the annual 60-day recreational closure to ORV access. Only the designated primary trails in the backcountry will be open. All secondary trails will remain closed for an additional 60 days. The closure does not affect landowners’ access to private property using permitted trails. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/bicy.

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