Tackle shop chatter is interesting. There's a mix of bragging and questioning, a blend of information exchange and chest-thumping. A fair chunk of it is inaccurate, but you have to learn to let that slide.
Most of the time, anyway. But when I hear someone talking about the gag grouper they caught a few days ago and how delicious the fillets were, it's time to say something.
“Maybe you didn't know, but gag are closed right now,” I offered. He countered with, “Nope — I got an email from FWC says they're open as of April 1.”
And he did get that email. I know for sure, because he showed it to me on his phone. He was feeling vindicated, right up until I pointed out that if you read past the headline, the email said gag were opening in Gulf state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties. That little four-county section of the state 200 miles north of here has an open gag season from April 1 to June 30, and then again Sept. 1 through Dec. 30. In other Gulf state waters, gag are open from June 1 to Dec. 31. (There's a cool map at http://bit.ly/2UjXQeH.)
He seemed a little sheepish about his misunderstanding and said he needed to take some photos off Facebook. I told him he wasn't the only one to make this mistake. Our fishing regulations are often convoluted and difficult to understand. I have a pretty good memory, but I regularly refer to the regulations page here in WaterLine. It's the only way I can keep everything straight.
The FWC has several times suggested that perhaps localized regulations might be a better way to manage fisheries. On a biology level, I agree — but they need to realize it could never work, and the reason is communication.
When FWC sends out a notice that a season is opening or closing, there's no way for them to be sure who's going to see it. People who live in closed areas will think season is opening, and vice versa. Even if the messages could be targeted just to those affected, they still may see the notices posted on social media or in print.
Right now, there are relatively few opportunities to make these mistakes. But if management became more localized, there would be many more. Imagine if redfish had a closed season in Charlotte County but not in Sarasota. How many people would get the wrong message, or maybe just ignore the closure when they saw other nearby anglers posting photos?
Ideally, fishing regulations should be straightforward and simple to understand. But they aren't, and it seems like the era of instant communication has only brought us greater confusion. As before, we'll do our best to keep our rules page up-to-date and accurate. Even so, it never hurts to double check.