Hunting News

Florida Wildlife Commission meeting set for February 23-24, 2011, in Apalachicola, Florida

For immediate release: February 15, 2011
Contact: (marine fisheries issues) Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554, ext. 2058
Contact: (hunting issues) Tony Young, 850-488-7867
Contact: (other issues) Susan Smith, 850-488-8843
Florida Wildlife Commission

Agenda, February 23-24, 2011.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet February 23 and 24, 2011, in Apalachicola to act on various fishing, hunting, recreational and wildlife issues. The sessions will begin at 8:30 a.m. each day and are open to the public. The meeting is in the third-floor courtroom of the Franklin County Courthouse, 33 Market St.

Traditionally, the Commission discusses marine fisheries issues on the second day, but this time it will take up draft rules regarding red drum (redfish) and bonefish on the first day, to allow the appropriate number of days to advertise any proposed marine fisheries rules that would be decided on at the next meeting.

On Wednesday, Feb. 23, Commissioners will consider a proposed draft rule that would establish three regional management areas for red drum, raise the daily recreational bag limit for red drum from one fish to two in Northeast and Northwest Florida, create a statewide eight-fish vessel limit for red drum and modify the red drum off-the-water possession limit.

They will also consider a proposed draft rule that would make bonefish a catch-and-release only fishery, allow the temporary possession of bonefish for photograph and record purposes, and create a tournament exemption permit to allow temporary possession of bonefish for tournament weigh-ins.

In other marine fisheries action, the Commission will review a report on a goliath grouper stock assessment and implications for future goliath grouper management, and consider various federal fisheries management issues.

Also on Feb. 23, Commissioners will consider a staff recommendation to remove the Flagler County Manatee Zones draft rule proposal from the agenda to allow additional time to develop the proposal.

Another waterway issue – an anchoring and mooring pilot program – is on the agenda Feb. 23. The Commission will hear a staff report and recommendations for two locations on the west coast and one within Monroe County for the pilot program. Under Florida Statutes, the Commission must select five sites by July 1. The cities of Sarasota and St. Petersburg are likely to be accepted into phase one of the pilot program as the west coast participants. The remaining two selections must be from the east coast.

A mooring field is a controlled area where boaters tie their vessels to a floating buoy, which is secured to the bottom of the waterway. Florida Statutes require the FWC, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection, to establish a pilot program regulating anchoring and mooring outside of marked public mooring fields to protect public property and safety and the marine environment against improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels.

Both meeting days begin with recognitions of people whose outstanding work has furthered the protection of wildlife. On Feb. 23, Commissioners will honor Apalachicola photographer and author John Spohrer Jr. On Feb. 24, they will pay tribute to two of their own: Tim Breault, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation and recipient of the Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award for conservation; and Lt. Anthony “Tony” Wright, recipient of the Lifesaving with Valor Award for rescuing a woman from a burning car north of Jacksonville.

The bulk of the agenda Thursday, Feb. 24, focuses on hunting issues.

That day, the Commission will vote on final rules that affect hunting on many of the state’s wildlife management areas (WMAs). Most of these new rules would apply to specific WMAs; however, two affect public hunting on a statewide scale.

One such statewide rule would establish youth turkey hunts on 78 FWC-managed areas, all of which support adequate turkey populations, and create a youth turkey quota permit. Fifty of the 78 areas would require a youth turkey quota permit, and only those youths who will be less than 16 years old on the last day of the youth turkey hunt could apply for this opportunity. These would be two-day, weekend hunts the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season on each particular WMA, beginning with the 2012 season.

The other statewide rule proposal Commissioners will discuss would remove the one-gun restriction on all hog quota hunts using dogs. These “hog-dog” quota hunts allow only one hunter (permit-holder), one gun, one assistant and up to three dogs. An additional person also may join the hunting party, if a guest permit is obtained in that person's name. But starting with the 2011-12 hunting season, each participant would be allowed to hunt with a gun.

Also on Feb. 24, the Commission will discuss withdrawing the proposal for a tag and reporting system for deer hunting, as well as continuing discussions on alternative systems for gathering deer-harvest data.

During the second day, the FWC expects to finalize changes in hunting dates for the 2011-12 season on lands it manages. If approved, the rules for these public lands would become effective on July 1.

These adjustments would align the seasons on wildlife management areas and wildlife and environmental areas more closely with the newly adopted zonal season dates that took effect on private lands last year and with the breeding season and hunter preferences.

On Feb. 24, Commissioners may advance a rule amendment giving alligator hunters four hours of daylight each day during the annual 11-week season, which runs from Aug. 15 to Nov. 1. Only nighttime hunting is legal now. If Commissioners move forward with the rule amendment, they will direct staff to advertise it and then vote on the final amendment at their June meeting.

Anyone requiring special accommodations to participate in the meeting should advise the FWC at least five days prior to the Feb. 23 meeting by contacting the FWC's Office of Human Resources at 850-488-6411. If you are hearing- or speech-impaired, contact the FWC using the Florida Relay Service at 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).

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