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Unprecedented cold weather has caused the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission to create statewide closed seasons for bonefish and tarpon until April, and to cancel the spring snook season, which was scheduled to start March 1.
This doesn’t mean that anglers cannot fish for tarpon and bonefish — only that regulations that allow for taking those fish (currently anglers are allowed to keep one bonefish 18 inches or greater in fork length per day) are suspended.
“The order also establishes a temporary prohibition on the harvest and possession of bonefish and tarpon from state and federal waters off Florida through March 31, unless these fisheries are opened sooner or the closures are extended by subsequent order. The FWC executive order for the snook, bonefish and tarpon closed seasons takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 16.”
In the Tampa Tribune, Frank Sargeant makes an interesting observation about the likely effect of extended cold temperatures on future tarpon stocks: “One painful loss that might not make itself felt for many years is the baby tarpon killed in estuarine creeks. These slow-growing fish would have been the mature silver kings of 10 years from now, but many are lost. Mature adults migrate south and move to much deeper water, and presumably few or none of them suffered. However, at least one year-class is sure to be gone among the younger fish, which stay in the shallowest of backwaters for their first several years of life.”