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Updated: 04/10/2014 08:00:00AM

FWC officers: So much more than just ‘fish cops’

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By Capt. Ralph Allen

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The gentleman was a newcomer to our area, having recently moved here from the Midwest. He was having difficulty understanding some of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s saltwater fishing regulations, so he’d asked me for help. He had no idea that there would be differing regulations on dozens of species of fish, and some regulatory concepts — including slot limits, aggregate bag limits, multiple open and closed seasons per year. Of course, species-specific gear restrictions were entirely new to him. His frustration grew as our discussion of the rules continued, and finally he interrupted my lengthy dissertation on aggregate snapper bag limits and blurted out, “Do I really need to worry about all these rules? How often do the fish cops really check you?”

This frustrated angler’s balky reaction when faced with the daunting task of learning Florida’s fishing regulations is, unfortunately, not unusual, and his two questions each raise important points. The first, “Do I really need to worry about all these rules?,” is a common response from people who regard the rules as unwarranted restrictions on their fun, and it seems that as the regulations have grown in complexity in recent decades that this reaction has become ever more common.

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