Just Because It’s Small and Shiny Doesn’t Mean It’s Bait!

Juvenile pompano (left) and juvenile permit (right) are commonly mistaken as bait.

Recently I helped an FWC officer identify some juvenile permit he confiscated from anglers who were using them as bait. To be more exact, he confiscated over 50 of the fish, all of them only a few inches long! Permit, of course, is a popular sportfish that is regulated by both a slot size and bag limit, and obviously these anglers violated both of these regulations.

Unfortunately, on more than one occasion I’ve seen anglers keep everything they land in their cast net despite having regulated fish among their catch. I see this happen most often with juvenile permit and pompano, which can be found along our beaches, and juvenile lane snappers that can be found in many nearshore locations. Whether you are in possession of a permit or pompano that is an inch short of the legal size limit or in possession of one that is only two inches long, it is still illegal.

Catching bait is a common practice among many anglers. In fact, you normally don’t have to look too far to find someone throwing a cast net from shore or a boat. We’re fortunate in Florida to have a wide variety of species that can be used as baitfish, but it’s important to remember that just because a fish is small and shiny, doesn’t mean it’s legal bait! Not all juvenile sportfish look exactly like their adult form, and even those that do can easily be confused with commonly used baitfish. In addition, many of these fish interact or are near baitfish, which can add to the likelihood of catching them.

Even if it is unintentional, anglers can face fines (possibly per fish) and potentially jail time if caught in possession of these regulated fish. Of course from a conservation perspective, it doesn’t make sense to keep and use these fish either as we want them to mature and reach legal size.

As a responsible angler it is important to know your fish and follow the fishing regulations, which includes knowing what the juveniles look like so that they don’t accidentally end up in your baitwell. To view the current FWC saltwater fishing regulations visit: http://pub.jfgriffin.com/doc/jfgriffin/10FLSWJUL

Here are what some other commonly caught sportfish look like when they are only a few inches long. Can you name them? See answers below!

1.

2.

3.

4.

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6.

1. Mangrove Snapper

2. Common Snook

3. Spotted Sea Trout

4. Sheepshead

5. Lane Snapper

6. Goliath Grouper

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