Inshore slam, snook, redfish and trout are catch-and-release until 2020

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m going to tell you now. Due to large quantities of fish being killed during the red tide bloom of 2018, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has concluded that a mandatory closure of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout go into effect on May 11, 2019 and remain in affect through May 2020. Yes, its official, and I believe this is a historic even. I can’t remember ever seeing a closure of these three species all at once. And for a whole year, too.

Do I think it’s good? Yes. Most definitely. Especially if we want to preserve our little hidden gem in west central Florida. Anna Maria Island and its surrounding waters are host to some of the best fishing on the Gulf coast of Florida and we want to keep it that way. And if conservation and stricter limits are the way to accomplish that, then so be it. And just think, there are plenty of other fish to catch if you fish to have a fish dinner.

Mangrove snapper comes to mind. And these fish are inshore and offshore favorites and seem to be in good numbers. Spanish mackerel are another candidate. Bleed them and ice them and they are fine eating fish. The shelf life is a little narrower than other fish, which means you need to eat them the day you catch them, but hey, things could be worse.

And don’t forget about flounder. They’re one of the finest-eating fish that swims. I’d take a big flounder over a snook fillet any day. Just sayin’. So I guess what I’m trying to get to is don’t look at this closure as bleak. Look at it as an opportunity to give our local snook, redfish, and trout population a change to rejuvenate. We can still catch them and that’s the most fun anyway.

On my own Southernaire charters, I just can’t escape the back country. The catch-and-release snook bite is exceptional with numbers falling between 30-40 fish per trip. There are catch-and-release redfish mixed in with the snook bite, which adds some variety. Spotted seatrout are being caught-and-released, too. I’m finding these fish on deeper grass flats during strong incoming tides. While targeting catch-and-release trout, I’m my clients are reeling in Spanish mackerel and a few flounder.