Bent Range Fate Comes Down to the Wire

▪ Whether the South Florida recreational fishing community gets to keep one of its most important bait-fishing spots is up to the Miami-Dade County Commission. The “bent range” and three other navigational markers that guide big ships into Government Cut at night are scheduled for demolition as early as mid-December as part of the PortMiami deep-dredge project. The towers are to be replaced by tall thin poles that don’t hold much marine life. Recreational anglers and charter-boat captains, led by Miami maritime attorney Bruce Marx and Wildlife Foundation of Florida chairman Rodney Barreto, have raised nearly $214,000 over the past week to keep the bent range intact. Barreto contributed $115,000 of his own money in order to buy out a government contractor’s cost of tearing it down, and several companies and individuals pledged about $99,000 to enable the marker’s transfer from the U.S. Coast Guard to county jurisdiction. The funds — administered by the nonprofit Capt. Bob Lewis Billfish Challenge — would pay for maintenance, inspection and possible tear-down if the structure should someday become unsafe. The county would not be responsible for any of the costs, but the deal requires county commission approval. It’s not certain whether the contract will make it onto the commission’s Dec. 2 agenda. If it is delayed until the Dec. 16 meeting, then it might be too late to save the bent range from the wrecking ball. Said Marx: “It truly is an 11th-hour situation. This is a great and rare opportunity for federal and local government to work together in the spirit of conservation and to save an iconic fish-attracting device at no cost to the taxpayers.”

▪ NOAA Fisheries on Wednesday released the long-awaited draft of its first National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy and wants to know what anglers, guides and others think about it. In a three-page document produced after months of public workshops around the United States, the agency says its policy goal is to “promote recreational fishing for the cultural, social and economic benefit of the nation through science-based conservation and management, and to provide for wide-ranging participation in and enjoyment of recreational fishing for present and future generations.”

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service says the policy is not intended to shortcut the work of regional management councils or states, rather to serve as a guide for the agency’s actions and responsibilities under the law. The new policy calls for promoting public access to quality fishing opportunities; supporting ecosystem conservation and enhancement; improving coordination with state and federal fisheries managers; using the best science to develop fisheries regulations in conjunction with cultural, social and economic data; and communicating with the public. Said NOAA’s Russell Dunn: “There is still a perception by recreational fishermen that NOAA has an institutional bias in favor of commercial fisheries. We have beaten the bushes for what concepts we should include in the policy.” The comment period runs through Dec. 31. Go to www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/recreational/policy/index.html.

▪ Make plans to attend the Salt Water Sportsman magazine fishing seminar on Jan. 31 at Coral Shores High School in Islamorada. Magazine editor-at-large and TV personality George Poveromo will host the day-long session with West Palm Beach Fishing Club executive director Tom Twyford. The panel of fishing experts will include captain George Clark Jr. of Key Largo; Islamorada captains Jim Willcox, Paul Ross and Ron Brack; Lower Keys guides Diego Toiran, Beau Woods, Mark Schmidt and Andrew Tipler; Marathon captain Mike Biffel; Miami tackle maker and wahoo authority captain Ron Schatman; and marine electronics expert captain David Wicker. The session runs from 9a.m. through 3p.m. and includes a goody bag and chance to win door prizes. Admission is $55. To preregister, visit www.nationalseminarseries.com or call 1-800-448-7360.