A Big Year for Florida

In 2017, the news was mostly positive for Florida.

As we turn the page on 2017, let’s take a look back at a few of the items that were important to Florida anglers.

Everglades restoration continues with expedited planning underway for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee (Lake) as a result of Florida Legislative action and also to the north and west through the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) process. Construction continues on the removal of Tamiami Trail to improve water flow south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie reservoirs. Several other projects, such as Kissimmee River restoration and the Florida Bay Plan, are nearing completion and novel solutions, like deep injection wells and aquifer storage and recovery, are under consideration to provide significant, short term relief during high-water conditions.

Hurricane Irma and subsequent rain events in the fall brought those high-water conditions to south Florida, prompting emergency water releases by the USACE from the Lake to the northern estuaries to ensure the integrity of the dike that surrounds it. Extended high-water levels in the Lake have damaged vegetation important for fish stocks and the discharges have altered salinity and turbidity in the estuaries causing environmental harm. ASA continues to diligently work to expedite restoration projects and funding to reduce future impacts.

Hurricane Irma ravaged much of the state in September, causing devastation to fishing communities in the Keys and the south coasts of Florida. Many guides are still trying to get their boats back in the water after facing personal challenges of home damage and loss. As the state rebounds, Keep Florida Fishing is working to highlight fishing opportunities to ensure the ongoing recovery.

Florida anglers saw relief from the recent short to non-existent federal seasons for red snapper on Atlantic and Gulf coasts. On the Atlantic Coast, an emergency order was issued by NOAA at the South Atlantic Council’s request to open the season for three 3-day weekends in the fall. While the weather was challenging for anglers to participate, the action to open a season so quickly was extremely positive. In addition, anglers were included in the data collection process through voluntary reporting of trips, catch, and discards. In the Gulf, a 39-day federal extension allowed for increased access during the summer months, and discussions about state management of this species offer hope for future recreational opportunities.

Kellie Ralston
Florida Fishery Policy Director
Keep Florida Fishing