Triggerfish opens March 1 with new limits

Tina Harbuck
Jerry Selcz of Michigan holds up some of the triggerfish he caught aboard the Swoop II with Capt Nick Price. This photo was taken in early January 2018.[TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG]

“After being zero, one sounds good.”

That’s the sentiment of a couple of local captains about the reopening of gray triggerfish in Gulf state and federal waters on March 1.

Last year, local charter boat captains that make their living fishing along the Gulf Coast were not able to keep gray triggerfish due to a shutdown of the fishery.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries closed it down as a measure to rebuild the stock, which they said was overfished.

But after a year of closure, the fishery opened up for 15 days in January and then closed again. During that short period of time anglers were able to keep two triggerfish each and the fish had to measure 14 inches to keep.

However, starting March 1, the daily bag limit will be one fish per person with a minimum size limit of 15 inches fork length.

“We’re excited about the reopening,” said Capt. Cliff Cox of the party boat Sweet Jody.

“They’re a fun fish to catch … and after being zero, one sounds good,” Cox said about the one-fish bag limit.

As for the new size limit, Cox doesn’t foresee that being a problem.

“We saw a lot of 15-inch fish last year,” he said.

Capt. Tony Davis of the charter boat Anastasia agreed.

“I caught the biggest triggerfish I’ve ever caught this past year,” Davis said, noting it probably weighed about 11 or 12 pounds.

Davis said he’s won the Destin Fishing Rodeo, which is held the month of October, in years past with a 9- to 10-pound triggerfish.

“I think it’s great,” Davis said about reopening the fishery.

But he did say a limit of two fish per person wouldn’t hurt.

“They don’t have a clue … they don’t know how many is out there,” Davis said.

Davis said there’s plenty of 5- to 7-pound triggerfish out there to be had.

When asked if the 15-inch size limit would be a problem, Davis said “Hell no.”

The changes to the regulations on the triggerfish were made at the July 2017 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting and are consistent with the changes made in federal waters, according to a news release from FWC.

“The changes also include an annual January through February recreational closure in Gulf state waters in addition to the annual June and July spawning closure. These federal consistency measures should help maintain fishing opportunities for gray triggerfish in state and federal waters for 2018 and the future,” according to the release.

Capt. Cox is hopeful that the lower limits and bigger fish will extend the season.

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