Legislature Considers Boat Anchoring Restrictions

▪ Boaters in Florida may want to keep track of two bills making their way through House and Senate committees of the state legislature. The outcome could affect how resident and visiting boaters ply state waters. Senate Bill 1548, introduced by North Florida Republican Charles Dean, would restrict overnight anchoring within 200 feet of waterfront homes. It also would prohibit anchoring or mooring a vessel that is incapable of traveling under its own power, or is partially sunken. Boating groups such as BoatUS fear such sweeping restrictions could have a chilling effect on the state’s recreational boating industry. A separate bill, committee bill HWSS 15-06 introduced by South Florida Republican Representative Holly Raschein, deals solely with the problem of derelict vessels and establishes tools for local governments to handle these sunken or abandoned boats without changing current anchoring laws. BoatUS is lobbying against the Senate measure (http://goo.gl/lBNzeP) and in favor of the House bill (http://goo.gl/XYp6Ip). The organization is encouraging boaters to register their opinions on both bills with their local lawmakers.

▪ NOAA Fisheries has just implemented new rules aimed at ending overfishing for blueline or gray tilefish — a tasty deepwater species — in the South Atlantic. Amendment 32 sets a recreational limit of one per boat per day for May through August; recreational harvest would be prohibited September through April each year until the fishery recovers. The rule sets a commercial trip limit of 100 pounds gutted weight. However, NOAA officials warn the recreational fishery might not open May 1 if landings are projected to reach the annual recreational catch limit, and the commercial sector will close if its landings are projected to hit the annual limit.

▪ The Florida record for shoal bass was broken twice in March — both times on North Florida’s Chipola River. Tucker Martin, 17, of Chipley caught a 4pound, 8ounce shoal bass March8 and barely a week later, Jamie Coleman, 18, of Altha caught one that weighed 41/2pounds. Because the weights were only .01 pounds apart, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made them co-state-record fish. Shoal bass are one of five species of black bass found in Florida. Largemouth is the most common and the largest species. The other three are Choctaw, spotted and Suwannee basses.

▪ If you are troubled by bats in your belfry, you have until April 15 to do something about it. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tax Day and bat-maternity season coincide, making removal of pregnant bats from attics, roofs or chimney spaces illegal from April 16 through Aug. 14. If you really need to discourage resident bats, visit MyFWC.com/Bats for guidelines.