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Know the rules for reef fishing

By Staff | Jul 24, 2020

Turning on the news anymore is just too stressful. Between the virus dilemma, civil unrest and the latest that the first possible hurricane is looking for a place to land, it’s a bit much for anyone. I just want to go fishing!

If you go offshore in your new boat to sample some of our reef fishing and to bring home some near-future grilled dinner guests, remembering some basic guidelines will help keep you in compliance with the law.

Hooks are as basic as it gets and there are rules on the types of hooks one can employ when fishing for reef species.

From our FWC — “State and federal regulations require all commercial fishers and recreational anglers fishing for any reef fish species to have and use certain gear.”

State waters of the Gulf of Mexico required gear:

* Circle hooks (must be non-stainless steel and not offset) when using natural baits.

* A de-hooking device

“Not offset” means that the circle hook is constructed so that the point of the hook points directly at the shank forming an incomplete circle and not pointing off to one side.

Non-stainless hooks rust away. If a fish swallows the hook and removing it might cause further damage, simply clip the line as close as possible to the hook eye and release the fish. Stainless is forever.

“In state waters” means up to 9 miles offshore. From 9 out to 200 miles, federal rules take over. Both in-line and offset hooks circle are legal in federal waters with the only requirement is the hook must be non-stainless.

A de-hooking device is defined as any tool that can help remove the hook safely. According to the FWC, even a pair of needlenose pliers qualifies as a “release tool.”

Barotrauma is an expansion of gases in the swim bladder which can be deadly to fish being pulled up from depths of 50 feet or more. Learning how to properly vent these gases with a venting needle can help save the fish. There are also “descending devices” available to help in a safer release.

It’s no secret that wise old trophy fish like to conserve energy. A trophy snook likes current but not fighting it, choosing instead to hide behind a current break while waiting to ambush an easy meal that’s passing by trapped in the tidal flow. Conserving energy is the plan and why this same 35-pounder would rather eat one 15-inch mullet than expend a ton of energy chasing tidbit shiners.

Throw big baits! Muskie fanatics are now casting large baits weighing a pound or more on 9-foot rods and 100-pound Power Pro to get the interest of a truly big fish wanting a big meal.

If you want to get serious about actually catching your true Southwest Florida trophy sized snook, think casting a pound and a half live mullet, on large rods stout enough to do so, using 80 to 100-pound braid and 100-pound fluorocarbon leaders.

Fish at night around structure with current breaks. Hang on!

Back home and hungry? Didn’t catch any fish but the local fish market had some really nice shrimp?

Grab a couple pounds of extra large, fire up the home grill and try this delicious shrimp marinade recipe from Tommy Thompson:

Mix the following:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbs. fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbs. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 tsp. hot paprika

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Marinate the shrimp for 20 minutes before cooking.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.