Building on the two-year-old TrophyCatch incentive program for bass anglers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has announced it will launch similar programs for saltwater fishers.
Just as bass fishers are rewarded with prizes and certificates for catching, documenting and releasing trophy lunkers in Florida lakes, canals and rivers, anglers who target saltwater species such as bonefish, cobia and pompano also will receive recognition for outstanding catches.
Jessica McCawley, FWC director of marine fisheries management, announced at last week’s ICAST fishing trade show in Orlando that the new Florida Saltwater Angler Recognition programs will kick off this fall.
“We feel they will challenge the most experienced anglers,” McCawley said.
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The new “Life List” will cover 71 species with four levels of achievement based on the number of fish anglers catch, document, photograph and release. Tiers range from novice — with 11 species checked off the life list — to master angler with all 71. Prize packages range from T-shirts and store discount cards to rod-and-reel combos and a fish cooler.
Anglers also will be recognized for various categories of grand slams — catching three different species within a 24-hour period. Categories include inshore (redfish, sea trout, flounder); blue water (dolphin, sailfish, wahoo); Florida (bonefish, permit, tarpon); family (any three fish in the same family, such as varieties of snapper and grouper); reefs and rubble (black sea bass, gag grouper, gray triggerfish); shoreline (sheepshead, whiting, Florida pompano); nearshore (cobia, tripletail, king mackerel); bay and estuary (mangrove snapper, snook, Spanish mackerel); and small fry (pinfish, grunt, catfish caught by anglers 15 and younger).
A “Reel Big Fish” program will reward anglers who catch and document “memorable” but not necessarily state- or world-record fish. Examples are a greater amberjack 50 inches or greater; a red grouper measuring 35 inches or more; or a mutton snapper 38 inches or larger. Four levels of prizes range from novice (catching large fish of five different species) to master angler — catching all 30 qualifying species on the list.
“Fish don’t have to be harvested,” McCawley said. “You can be a complete catch-and-release angler and still be rewarded and recognized.”
The FWC hopes to enhance the prizes awarded for notable saltwater catches in the future. Last year, the agency gave away a bass boat in a drawing among everyone registered in the TrophyCatch program.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to know what freshwater anglers think about a proposed major management change for largemouth bass.
The agency will hold a public meeting Tuesday at its south regional office in West Palm Beach at 6:30 p.m.
The FWC is considering whether to implement a statewide five-fish-daily bag limit, with an allowance for one fish 16 inches or longer. The aim is to cut down on the wide range of special regulations in effect around the state. The measure would not affect current exemptions for bass tournaments.
For more information, visit myFWC.com/Fishing and click on “black bass management.”