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Saltwater catfish limits in the near future to help rebuild stocks

Have you ever been taken to a spot, and you just get that feeling? You know, the I’m-going-to-catch-something-here type of feeling?

Let’s say you’re with a friend, and he takes you to a spot, rigs up squid with metal leader, a weight, and big J hook – the “catching rig” as he calls it.  “Throw it out there in the middle of the channel, you’ll get one,” he says.  And what do you know, you instantly have a bite.

It slowly bobs its head, as you coast the weak fighting fish toward the boat.  “That’s the one,” your friend says, as he swings a beautiful gaftopsail catfish into the boat. “Extra slimy, that’s how I like ‘em.”

He opens the cooler, and adds it to the box with the other catfish.

As you look in, you count at least 30, probably 40 big catfish.  “Are there no limits on these things?” you ask.

“Nope, let’s keep it that way,” he responds.

But the FCW (Florida Catfish Watchers) is looking to change that.  The group fears that catfish are becoming overfished in Florida waters.

As I exchanged emails with a representative, who wanted to remain anonymous, he says the FCW fears for the future of the catfish. “Have you caught a catfish 10 miles offshore in the past year?” he asks.

I thought, and couldn’t help but respond no.

“There is a problem with that,” the representative told me.

“It doesn’t matter that you can go and catch catfish in any channel, off any flat, or other stagnant water places.  We fear the catfish population is not what it should be when we don’t see them where we normally shouldn’t see them.”

I was a bit confused.  I could swear catfish show up when I don’t want them to. It’s almost as if there are more of them now than there have ever been.

“Just because you are catching them, doesn’t mean the population is what it should be,” the FCW representative told me. “We want to ensure a healthy population of catfish for years to come, so your children, grandchildren, and their children will be able to enjoy catfish.”

The proposed season would close catfish for 362 days of the year.  They would be open on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Labor Day, as well as every other Leap Year that falls on a Tuesday.

If weather isn’t good on Christmas, the season may be extended to Valentine’s day.  The bag limit will be a five gallon bucket of catfish per boat, or three per angler, whichever is less. They must be between 16-18 inches, pinched tail.

The proposed regulations would begin in 2019, after the FCW has enough time to study the catches of catfish and instill restocking programs.

The representative left me with this, “Look at how many red snapper are out there, it’s proof that these restocking programs work. One day we hope there are as many catfish as there are red snapper and gag grouper.”

So, if you catch a catfish, throw it back. Happy fishing and happy April Fools!

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