Some out-of-area commercial fishermen were checked for compliance with fishing regulations while netting for mullet in Bimini Bay (also known as Fiske Bayou) on Anna Maria Island.
HBPD requested assistance from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Law Enforcement division. HBPD has it’s own marine patrol but it is used for the city’s jurisdiction. The FWC patrol serves a greater Tampa Bay area related to boating and fishing regulation enforcement.
Tampa Bay has prohibitions against using nets but there are exemptions that permit certain sizes. The most commonly used are cast nets, recreationally for catching baitfish, and commercially for catching mullet.
The regulations vary from one area of Florida to another in a patchwork of rules defining seasons, equipment allowed, and bag limits, for recreational and for commercial purposes. Some information is available on the FWC web site. Here is a summary of some of those rules:
– Cast nets measuring 14 feet or less stretched length (stretched length is defined as the distance from the horn at the center of the net with the net gathered and pulled taut, to the lead line). Cast nets may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Florida pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, weakfish, and unregulated species.
– Beach or haul seines measuring no larger than 500 square feet of mesh area, no larger than 2 inches stretched mesh size, not constructed of monofilament, and legibly marked at both ends with the harvester’s name and address, if a Florida resident. Non-residents using beach or haul seines for recreational purposes are required to have a commercial saltwater products license and legibly mark the seine at both ends with the harvester’s saltwater products license number. Beach or haul seines may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Florida pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, weakfish, and unregulated species.
The fishermen appeared to be using two seine nets joined at the ends to form a large diameter, and were progressively reducing the diameter. One 500 square foot net could be 150 feet long and 3 feet deep and still be within regulations.
The FWC enforcement boat arrived some time after the nets had been separated back into two smaller diameter areas. The officers’ boat could not negotiate the shallow sea grass area and stood off until the fishermen had finished their catch.
It appeared that after interrogation and discussion that there was no seizing of the catch or equipment. An HBPD officer later confirmed that no charges were laid.