By Susan King

June 15, 2005

Another article that pisses me off to no end.
Remember:The ban is on ONLY till the tourist season starts up again!
ps.I have hated Byron Stout since moving here 12 years ago.
And IMO,the commission needs a huge overhaul to get rid of the pathetic
dead weight that continues to restrict fish on their whims.
If SW florida would STOP building and start restricting the throngs of humans from invading our cities,then we wouldn’t have so many damn restrictions.
We moved down here for the FISHING. Not the restrictions.

Anyone going to the Naples hearings so we can be ignored when we attempt to speak up and protest?

Grouper ban angers anglers

Fed plan would temporarily halt fishing

By Byron Stout
Published by on May 11, 2005

Public hearings on recreational red grouper proposals will be held at
the following locations and dates. Specific times and places will be
announced on the Web at
• Thursday, June 16 — Destin
• Monday, June 27 — Key West
• Tuesday, June 28 — Naples
• Wednesday, June 29 — Madeira Beach
Interim rules to reduce recreational reg grouper catches are expected
to be in place sometime in July.

A federal plan to close recreational grouper fishing in the Gulf of
Mexico for as many as four months has local anglers upset.

Local businesses that depend on grouper fishing fear the worst.

Charter Capt. Roy Gottschalk has run grouper trips out of Fort Myers
Beach for 31 years.

He thinks a grouper closure could be career-ending.

”’We want to catch grouper, Cap.’ That’s what you hear every day,”
he said.

“They’ll just shut us down and put us all on welfare. They’ll have
unemployment lines with nothing but fishermen in them.”

Red grouper are classified as overfished. They have been regulated
under a rebuilding plan since July. Fishery managers say skyrocketing
sport-fishing catches are wrecking the plan.

Under the 10-year recovery plan, sport fishing interests are allowed
to take 19 percent of the red grouper harvest. Commercial boats take
the rest.

The proposed rules will not affect the commercial availability of

In addition to creating a temporary closed season for red grouper,
fishery managers say it also is necessary to close gag grouper — an
even more important recreational fish — plus six other shallow-water

They include black grouper, because fishing for those fish could kill
red grouper caught by accident.

That would put sport and charter fishing boats out of the grouper
fishing business for prime fishing periods.

“There are guys who grouper are the only thing they target offshore,”
said Wayne Dutton, a partner at Cape Tool & Tackle on Pine Island
Road. “They’re going to destroy this fishery. There’s a trickle
effect. Nobody will buy any big boats, and the captains on (Fort
Myers) Beach are going to be put out of business for months.”

Federal fishery managers have not estimated the economic impact their
decisions could have on the economy of Florida, where 95 percent of
shallow-water groupers — mainly reds and gag — are landed.

The only number NOAA Fisheries economist Tony Lamberte could provide
was an estimate of $26 million in annual net profit from red grouper
fishing for the for-hire fishery — charter and party boats.

“We don’t have a value for gag,” Lamberte said. “For gag it should be
more, I would say.

“Gag is basically a recreational fishery; more than 70 percent of the
catch is made by the recreational sector. In the red grouper fishery,
only 20 percent is by the recreational sector, and 80 percent is

“If you shut down gag it will be a whole lot more than that.”

Those millions, however, are for for-hire boats only. The
recreational grouper catch is made primarily by private boats, for
which there is no estimate of economic value. Lamberte said those
estimates should be available by July.

Ted Forsgren, of the recreational fishing group Coastal Conservation
Association of Florida, said he will urge his 9,900 members to take
part in four public hearings the Gulf Council will hold in June,
including one in Naples on June 29.

Bokeelia angler Hank Littleton said he’ll be there.

Before Hurricane Charley slowed him down, he and friends used to fish
about once a week in his 29-foot, diesel-powered Stamas. They
targeted red grouper in about 100 feet of water off Boca Grande or
Captiva Pass, sharing about $60 in fuel costs.

Normally, Littleton said, four anglers would catch a limit of 20
grouper — mostly reds with one or two gag.

“They already killed it for someone like me. I can’t afford to go out
30 miles and catch two red grouper,” Littleton said of the current
bag limit, reduced from five red grouper to two last July.

Federal managers are considering reducing the red grouper bag limit
to one, plus two other shallow-water groupers, for a total of three.
Littleton said he might sell his boat.

Tom Nichols, owner of Bonita Boat Center, said the high-end boats
used for grouper fishing are key to his 24-year-old dealership’s
profitability. He estimated he could lose $700,000 to $1 million in
sales during the fall season closure alone.

Forsgren claims federal regulators are ignoring a better option. An
increase in the minimum size limit — now 20 inches for red grouper —
could achieve the same reduction in harvest by protecting more fish.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Web site reports an
increase in the minimum size for red grouper from 20 inches to 22
inches would result in a 32 percent decrease in harvest if 10 percent
of shorter grouper were accidentally killed when thrown back.

Roy Crabtree, director of federal fisheries management for the
Southeast, said he is not considering an increase in the minimum size
because the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has said it
didn’t like that method.

He noted the decision was his to make for any interim rule. It could
last for 180 days with a possible 180-day extension.

Crabtree said his goal is to have the interim rule in place in July.
He emphasized it will not be permanent. He also wanted to emphasize
that no decisions on the length of closures or reductions in bag
limits have been made.

Crabtree noted public hearings could impact his decision.

“We’ll take their comments into account, and I’m getting a lot of
comments now. I understand that people don’t like closures. And I
understand there are people who think it should only be reds.

“And I understand there are people who don’t believe the numbers,” he
said of the surveys that show the recreational red grouper catch
increased by 130 percent in 2004 — a year shortened by four