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Spotted seatrout: new zones, regulations, and Western Panhandle seasonal closure effective Feb. 1

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Several rule changes for spotted seatrout go into effect Feb. 1, including a closure to spotted seatrout harvest in the new Western Panhandle management zone.

Spotted seatrout are one of Florida’s most popular inshore fisheries. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made these changes after reviewing the results of a recent stock assessment and gathering input from anglers. These changes were made to benefit spotted seatrout populations while continuing to provide quality fishing opportunities.

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The new rule changes do not replace the current catch-and-release only measures for spotted seatrout in southwest Florida. Spotted seatrout, red drum and snook remain catch-and-release through May 31, 2020, in waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. The Commission may discuss whether to modify the current catch-and-release measures for southwest Florida at the February meeting.

The following rules go into effect Feb. 1, 2020:

  • Creating two new zones by splitting the Northwest spotted seatrout management zone into the: (See maps below.)
    • Western Panhandle (Escambia County through the portions of Gulf County west of longitude 85 degrees, 13.76 minutes but NOT including Indian Pass/Indian Lagoon).
    • Big Bend (remaining portion of Gulf County plus Indian Lagoon, and Franklin County through Fred Howard Park Causeway in Pinellas County).
  • Creating the renamed South Florida zone (Fred Howard Park Causeway in Pinellas County near the Pasco County line through Broward County) and Central East zone (Palm Beach through Volusia counties) by moving the boundary between the southern management zones. (See maps below.)
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  • Reducing bag limits
    • Western Panhandle: three fish (was five).
    • Big Bend: five fish (no change).
    • South Florida: three fish (was four).
    • Central East: two fish (was four).
    • Northeast: five fish (was six).
  • Modifying the recreational slot size limit from 15-to-20 inches to 15-to-19 inches total length.
  • Allowing one seatrout over 19 inches per vessel (currently per harvester).
  • Prohibiting captain and crew from keeping a bag limit on a for-hire trip.
  • Re-establishing the February recreational closure in the Western Panhandle zone and the November-December recreational closure in the Central East zone.
  • Reducing the current daily commercial limits to 50 per harvester and 100 per vessel.
  • Removing an unnecessary commercial reporting form.

Learn more about spotted seatrout by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Spotted Seatrout.”

map florida spotted sea trout, speckled trout, zones, map western panhandle

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