WaterLine file photo

If you’re lucky enough to catch a big trout this spring, you’ll have to release it — but the season isn’t closed.

Here at WaterLine, we have a long history of advising you, the angling public, when there are new regulations that will affect your fishing. Often it’s Capt. Ralph Allen who writes it up, but since he’s slacking at the moment I suppose I’ll do it.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s meeting last week was a busy one, and we have multiple things to review. We’ll start with the one that will affect the most people: An emergency closure on seatrout over 20 inches in all the areas where redfish and snook are closed due to last year’s major red tide fish kills. As with the other closures, it’s in effect until May 10. Trout 15 to 20 inches are still fair game, and you can still keep four — but the big girls have to go back.

Next up, the 2019 recreational red snapper season. State regulators are currently setting the seasons for both state waters and adjacent federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Our season will be June 11 through July 12. If there’s any quota left, we might see a short fall season as well (weekends only, perhaps). For charters with federal permits, the season opens June 1 and closes when the quota is met.

As expected, there are major changes coming for land-based shark fishermen (which you might be, even if you’re not shark fishing — read on).

Here are the new rules, which take effect on July 1:

• “Shore-based shark fishing” means targeting or harvesting any species of shark when fishing from shore, wade fishing, or fishing from any structure attached to shore, including but not limited to bridges, piers, docks and jetties.

• All shore-based shark fishermen age 16 or older (including those over age 65) must have a no-cost, annual permit. To qualify, anglers must complete an education course, which will be available at

• Those under 16 must take the educational requirement associated with the permit, unless they are fishing with an adult who already holds the permit.

• Chumming from the beach is not allowed for any species. “The beach” is any area of shoreline along a body of marine or brackish water that is covered predominantly in sand, with sufficient sand above the mean high-water line to support sunbathing.

• All prohibited shark species must be immediately released when fishing from shore. If necessary, you must cut the leader, line or hook to prevent delaying such release.

• All prohibited shark species must remain in the water when fishing from shore or from a vessel. The rule specifies the gills must be underwater and the shark’s whole length must be in the water.

• Non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hooks are required to target or harvest sharks when using live or dead natural bait, from shore or from a vessel.

• You must possess a device capable of quickly cutting the leader or hook when targeting sharks from shore or a vessel, and use it when necessary.

Now, are you a shark fisherman? Maybe, because fishing with any of the following gear or methods will be considered shore-based shark fishing regardless of the species targeted or harvested. Read these carefully: Fishing with a metal leader greater than 4 feet in length; using a fighting belt, fighting harness or similar device; deploying bait by any means other than casting from shore or casting while wade fishing, including but not limited to transporting or dropping the bait by or from a vessel, surf board, drone or by swimming.

The FWC also adopted a slate of new hunting regulations. I’m out of space to explain them here. But if you’re interested to learn more, go to and and you can read the whole list.

Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or

Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@


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