zcoker

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About zcoker

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  • About Me:
    Easy going, carefree, night creeper for Snook.
  • Interests (Hobbies, favorite activities, etc.):
    Fishing! But I have some old school street killers (Porsche 930 Turbo 550hp/BMW 528I 700HP).
  • What I do for a living:
    Healthcare

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  1. Can be hit or miss over there off the beaches, yes indeed....sometimes the least expected most secluded and unanticipated little spot over there can rock your world like being in fishing heaven LoL. And right you are about those beaches, jammed packed, places like Clearwater beach, lot of questions about fishing it on this forum...yeah, right...just try to park over there near pier 60 on a Saturday or Sunday...let alone any other day. Dang, use to hang out there at 60 some thirty years ago, tossing marina fish into the hotel swimming pools along the beach for fun, when all the whole area was wide and free, blue water lifting, seagulls singing in the sky....so fine it was....friggin sardine can now but I still get over there sometimes for the sand festival plus all the lookers around. Don't overlook the Dunedin area nor the small bay areas like the harbor near Oldsmar. The big main bay can be down right empty and dirty at times. Regardless, I concentrate on the Skyway area, Desoto area, or Anna Marie Island when I am cruising over that way for any related surf action....lot of shark activity if I catch things right. Tarpon are on the clock pretty thick as we speak, right off shore in the passes...silver kings at their best.
  2. Fish the west coast often (own a house in Pinellas County) and do best for snook in the various run-offs and spillways and bridges. Never had much luck jerking around those super shallow beaches over there. For “quality” fish it’s nice to have a longer rod with plenty of backbone, especially around the bridges and run-offs. Gotta lay the heat into them. Redfish, too, can command a serious setup often big bulls 40+ lbs free lining blue crabs can sneak up. Trout—sure, light finess setup....so it all depends on what is being targeted as well as the location. Better to be prepared, I recommend...or just have both, long and short.
  3. There was no evidence presented by Staff at the FWC meeting that proved shark fishing attracts sharks closer to the beach. Sharks, in fact, are already close to the surf zone in certain areas, especially during their migratory phases regardless of swimming activity and/or fishing activity.
  4. I do agree with more regulations. One of the testimonies at the FWC meeting described two young kids walking out onto a crowded beach with small spinning rods and a surf board. The speaker claimed to have had seen the surf board out by the breakers and thought the kids only surfing. When asked, later, what they were doing sitting around, the kids responded that they were “shark fishing”, and taking the bait out “like we’ve seen on the videos.” Can’t say how accurate that particular account is but it does show the complete lack of experience with the newcomers and where they get it. And this is precisely how the publics’ “perception” gets muddled. A great example of twisted perception was the event that took place at Bathtub Beach where a little girl got bitten by a shark. All eye witness accounts of that event including the victim’s mother testified (even to the FWC) as to having seen spear fishermen out in the open water that day. These fishermen were allegedly spearing fish, as they were seen walking back to the beach with “speared “fish. No mention of shark fishing was taking place yet from this example ( as far as the media is concerned and just about everyone else) puts the complete onus on land based shark fishing when, in fact, land based shark fishing has nothing to do whatsoever with spear fishing and wasn’t even taking place that day. So a lot of distorted perception, contradictions, and assumptions are being made about this sport and rightly so. Any sort of regulations by the FWC will at the very least add clarity to the already ambiguous regulations. In addition, I feel strongly that some form of education would benefit because of the complete chaos on social media where most seek their shark fishing knowledge, something on the lines of the Hunter Education Training Course, which is required to get a hunting license here in Florida. It could even be called the Shark Fishing Education Training Course, something like that, at the very least a universal guideline to follow for safe, practical, and ethical shark fishing in our waters.
  5. Perhaps so. Funny how that idiom works....or maybe a shark's gonna eat me like in the movie Jaws LoL
  6. As a friendly reminder, the FWC does support recreational shark fishing and will continue to support it in a viable way. In fact, there's a list of sharks that can be harvested in Florida waters, which means, of course, you have to catch them in order to take them. The only suggestion that came up in the meeting about tackle was the use of circle hooks, requiring them by law when fishing for sharks, which I believe is excellent. I'm trying to get FWC to add barb removal to that law.
  7. Hey, man, thanks for the input. I saw very little in the way of posted pictures from social media having anything to do with fuel being added to the fire at the FWC meeting last Wednesday. That's not to say that our opponents don't use these vary images against us, which we all know they do. I just didn't see the subject presented exclusively enough to get the commissioners full attention. As far as being mobbed on my favorite bridges--really can't say where this is coming from or what it has to do with the FWC and land based shark fishing, same with Tarpon flapping around on concrete.....perhaps I just missed your point....or just need another cup of coffee LoL
  8. Thought you NJ guys might be interested. I posted this in the Florida forum under my Sharky Weekend thread: FWC MEETING ON LAND BASED SHARK FISHING.....END OF DAYS MAY BE UPON US! Today I attended the long anticipated FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) public meeting related to land based shark fishing here in South Florida. For anyone who does not know, there is a lot of political pressure in Florida to change the current shark fishing regulations, specifically land based hook and line shark fishing. These decisions will effect ALL of Florida waters and those who fish them, and may or may not be adopted in other states as well, as they sometimes do. The meeting was in Fort Lauderdale at the Marriott North and was a packed house. Most of the speakers staged in front of the commissioners were representative of larger groups: scientific groups, commercial fishing organizations, diving organizations, staffing groups--as they called it or stake holders, conservation groups, various mayors, attorneys, etc. And some of the stuff that was said!!! like wow, totally insane! It was claimed by some that shark fishermen use kittens, puppies, and even sea turtles for bait....I was not drunk, guys! Every word is public record, yes sir. They claimed with the turtles that holes are drilled into their shells for the placement of the hooks! Others presented posters of various sharks subdued on beaches totally whacked out and twisted, stories about shark attacks which were alleged to have been caused by, you guessed it, shark fishermen. There were outcries, pleas, and tons of angry finger pointing.... Yet what baffled me most was the commissioners last remarks during their closing statements: they were totally surprised that no one from the shark fishing community showed up! Not one single person out of hundreds attending....sure, I was there, wearing my hammerhead shirt, my NOAA hat, even had my truck parked outside with my yak in it....and if eyes could kill, man, I would not be sitting here right now because those people were out for blood! or even shark bait lol.....Don't get me wrong, it was safe lol.....but the lack of rebuttal was outright baffling. Anyhow, all these big names in the shark fishing community who command a strong vocal presence on social media, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, all the various forums, tournament leaders etc, all these guys loud and commanding and popular....none of them showed up!...not good. Regardless, FWC did vote unanimously to enact new shark fishing regulations---done deal. The laws are going to change, so follow FWC closely for any updates. What those regulations shall be remains to be seen. A few things I can guesstimate: a shark fishing license. They spoke of "accountability", words like that. Also talked about certain tackle and gear being used, specific to the tackle and gear used to catch sharks from beaches, namely circle hooks, requiring them by law. They talked about using the force of the FWC officers to make numerous patrols of various beaches armed and ready with citations and/or even arrest, that is, if the new laws are broken. People screamed and ranted that FWC never does anything. So they want to set examples, I presume. They spoke of outlawing protected sharks from being beached (hammerheads and tiger sharks). They even spoke of an outright ban on land based shark fishing but that would be far fetched, in my opinion, becasue on the deeper politics involved. I will, however, say this: whatever the FWC decides, it's always piggybacked by towns, meaning these mayors and town councils jump on the bandwagon and take any new agendas to the absolute limits. So the beaches usually fished might become few and far between. Lot of griping and sympathies about shark fishermen fishing on public beaches, how we blood bait the sharks up close to endanger the bathers. In any case, I did submit in writing my own personal statement/rebuttal to all commissioners in the hope that it might provide something positive in the name of our sport. I worded the statement with a lot of the same language that I always use on this forum about shark fishing. Hardly can I presume, however, that one little statement from one person is going to make much if not any difference.....but at least I tried.
  9. FWC MEETING ON LAND BASED SHARK FISHING.....END OF DAYS MAY BE UPON US! Today I attended the long anticipated FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) public meeting related to land based shark fishing here in South Florida. For anyone who does not know, there is a lot of political pressure in Florida to change the current shark fishing regulations, specifically land based hook and line shark fishing. These decisions will effect ALL of Florida waters and those who fish them, and may or may not be adopted in other states as well, as they sometimes do. The meeting was in Fort Lauderdale at the Marriott North and was a packed house. Most of the speakers staged in front of the commissioners were representative of larger groups: scientific groups, commercial fishing organizations, diving organizations, staffing groups--as they called it or stake holders, conservation groups, various mayors, attorneys, etc. And some of the stuff that was said!!! like wow, totally insane! It was claimed by some that shark fishermen use kittens, puppies, and even sea turtles for bait....I was not drunk, guys! Every word is public record, yes sir. They claimed with the turtles that holes are drilled into their shells for the placement of the hooks! Others presented posters of various sharks subdued on beaches totally whacked out and twisted, stories about shark attacks which were alleged to have been caused by, you guessed it, shark fishermen. There were outcries, pleas, and tons of angry finger pointing.... Yet what baffled me most was the commissioners last remarks during their closing statements: they were totally surprised that no one from the shark fishing community showed up! Not one single person out of hundreds attending....sure, I was there, wearing my hammerhead shirt, my NOAA hat, even had my truck parked outside with my yak in it....and if eyes could kill, man, I would not be sitting here right now because those people were out for blood! or even shark bait lol.....Don't get me wrong, it was safe lol.....but the lack of rebuttal was outright baffling. Anyhow, all these big names in the shark fishing community who command a strong vocal presence on social media, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, all the various forums, tournament leaders etc, all these guys loud and commanding and popular....none of them showed up!...not good. Regardless, FWC did vote unanimously to enact new shark fishing regulations---done deal. The laws are going to change, so follow FWC closely for any updates. What those regulations shall be remains to be seen. A few things I can guesstimate: a shark fishing license. They spoke of "accountability", words like that. Also talked about certain tackle and gear being used, specific to the tackle and gear used to catch sharks from beaches, namely circle hooks, requiring them by law. They talked about using the force of the FWC officers to make numerous patrols of various beaches armed and ready with citations and/or even arrest, that is, if the new laws are broken. People screamed and ranted that FWC never does anything. So they want to set examples, I presume. They spoke of outlawing protected sharks from being beached (hammerheads and tiger sharks). They even spoke of an outright ban on land based shark fishing but that would be far fetched, in my opinion, becasue on the deeper politics involved. I will, however, say this: whatever the FWC decides, it's always piggybacked by towns, meaning these mayors and town councils jump on the bandwagon and take any new agendas to the absolute limits. So the beaches usually fished might become few and far between. Lot of griping and sympathies about shark fishermen fishing on public beaches, how we blood bait the sharks up close to endanger the bathers. In any case, I did submit in writing my own personal statement/rebuttal to all commissioners in the hope that it might provide something positive in the name of our sport. I worded the statement with a lot of the same language that I always use on this forum about shark fishing. Hardly can I presume, however, that one little statement from one person is going to make much if not any difference.....but at least I tried.
  10. Some say it’s just as good. Just how you cook it, like any fish, I guess. But I like fried snook nuggets with spicey honey/mustard dip. Or egg battered snook strips sautéed in garlic butter with capers served over linguini.....making me hungry writing this lol
  11. Took a break from the sharks and hit the local inlet.....took three fish before I got to the magic 32 incher (keepers on Florida's Atlantic coast are 28-32 inches) last one is the keeper---fish nuggets! Thought I lost touch on the feather but I guess not LoL. Inlets are going strong with Snook and Tarpon for anyone interested. Caught some niceTarpon as well. Great night! .
  12. 'How to shark fish' is a very hot topic, isn't it? Countless hours can be spent hunting for information about how to catch a shark, focusing in on this one aspect, zeroing in with a thirst like no other, gathering as much information as possible, putting it all together in form, then function, and then hitting the sand feeling (or hoping) that it will all work out okay. The intentions are all good, yes. The information may be absolutely correct, yes. But then, suddenly, one may realize after they hook a big shark and get that sucker into the wash that they are scared to death of it and have no clue whatsoever what do do next..... Living and fishing in South Florida I've seen this very scenario play out over and over....people hell-bent to catch sharks but then having little to no information on what to do with them after they get them subdued. Some even have no clue as to what they just caught becasue, to them, a shark is a shark. Sometimes, even, they stage themselves in or around impossible situations, like off bridges, or off jetties loaded with big rocks, all with little to no regard on how to safely land/release the sharks....... list is endless. Don't get me wrong, here. I support wholeheartedly those who try very hard to pass the correct 'how to catch a shark' information along related to the areas that they fish, information like bait to use, etc. Lot of hours can go into that information, lot of hard work, and a lot of dedication....hats off. However, it must be realized that this is only ONE aspect to this sport, catching sharks. Giving someone a part of the know-how is only a part of the package. Because land based shark fishing, you see, is a PACKAGE DEAL, meaning ALL aspects of it must be mastered (as much as possible) else disaster is imminent, either to the fisherman or to the shark. Trial and error has no place in this sport because trial and error is precisely what might kill this sport here in Florida. So many dead sharks are washing up on our beaches, all related to improper catch and release practices, so much so that FWC is having a meeting this month to possibly implement specific laws to curtail the sport once and for all, laws that may or may not carry over to other states as well. If anything, follow the logical steps while shark fishing, just like any other fish, a package deal: Know the species: sharks are unique. Learn as much about the species in your area as you do about the tackle and/or techniques to catch them. Hammerheads, for instance, fight to the death. They build up tremendous amounts of lactic acid during the fighting process. You can even smell this when up close. Hammerheads can also bite their own tails; they are limber enough to "O" up. Blacktips can smack/jump up several feet off the ground. I've had them jump up as high as eye level...never assume that a shark can't get ya on the sand! Know thy weather because weather conditions can and do play a significant role during the release process: wave action or not, water clarity or not, rip currents, tides, atmospheric conditions and so forth. Bad or unfavorable weather conditions can play a significant role in promoting disaster if not prepared. Bait deployment by yaking follows suit....a whole different subject that must be mastered as well. . Know and study the fishing location: is there a safe and practical landing zone? Can you even fish there? Is it a public beach that will be jammed packed later on? Were dry-runs made to ensure that a shark can be easily and safely worked and then released in the landing zone? How was the tidal conditions during that dry-run? Maybe it might be exact opposite during the next tidal phase....answer all the fundamental questions with as much FACT as possible, no guess work. Have the correct gear! Do not skimp on gear -- you want to bring the fish in as fast as possible or as green as possible with no break-offs, regardless if yaking or casting. If you cannot afford the correct gear, don't fish for sharks! Terminal tackle plays a vital role for not only catching sharks but for a quick and effective release. Remove the barb from the hook becasue the hook can then be removed easily--faster. A big barbed hook is nearly impossible to remove once embedded deeply. If using metal leader, use wire instead of cable because wire can be snipped instantly with small cutters. I know some who fish for sharks with 1/4in cable from Home Depot, for example. Try to cut that in a hurry LoL. My point is this: the little things do add up to significantly reduce the time it takes to get the shark back into the water. Mere seconds can make a HUGE difference, even to the point of the shark's life. Have a well experienced team around, people who KNOW how to handle big sharks. Explain and/or teach as much the package as possible to people who don't know before fishing with them. NO FEAR for everyone. Have readily available at all times the TOOLS necessary for a quick and effective release; not buried in bags or in car or long distances away: bolt cutters, wire cutters, de-hookers, tail rope, etc. Waste no time de-hooking. If cannot remove hook, cut it. And if no tools around, just cut the line. Do not attempt to bring shark up on beach with no way to release it just for a picture. After de-hooking, drag shark back into the deeper water by tail, turn sideways, and slowly aim fish outward open ocean and then give her a good shove off. In most cases, the shark will give off a good kick and swim off nicely. Sometimes this process has to be done a number of times because of the wave action pushing them back in. Sometimes, even, it may be required to swim with fish until she perks up and then do the swim-off procedure. Regardless, always be aware during this process that the fish being released is in a "target condition" , meaning that other sharks nearby can aggressively attack. That's why I always recommend staying on the "beach-side" or "structure side" of the fish being released so as to have a barrier in case another shark attacks, especially on dark nights! And remember, there's no way one can predict what size and kind of shark will hit a bait, whether it on the endangered list or not, be ready at ALL times and NEVER assume that just because you are on a very busy beach with lots of boat traffic amid a beautiful day that you will catch easy-peazy fish. Below is one of the open letters to FWC for this very meeting taking place here in Florida, which I, amongst other locals shark fishermen, will be attending in our defense. Lots of attention to this sport, both from the scientific community as well as the political community, lots and lots of attention. An open letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on revising land-based recreational shark fishing regulations Note: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding a public meeting on April 25th which will include the issue of land-based recreational shark fishing. Part of my dissertation research focused on this topic, so I am submitting expert testimony, but since I no longer live in Florida I am submitting it remotely. I am sharing my testimony here. Anyone else who is interested in attending the meeting in person (Fort Lauderdale Marriott on April 25th), or submitting testimony remotely, is free to quote my talking points below if the appropriate references are cited. Dear Chair Rivard, Vice Chair Spottswood, Commissioner Kellam, Commissioner Lester, Commissioner Nicklaus, Commissioner Rood, and Commissioner Sole of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), My name is Dr. David Shiffman, and I studied land-based shark fishing in Florida as part of my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. This research was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Fisheries Research (here’s a link to an open access copy) and covered in major media outlets including National Geographic, Nature, and the Miami Herald. Accordingly, I would like to provide expert testimony for your April 25th public hearing on this topic. Since I no longer reside in Florida I am submitting this testimony remotely. As a conservation biologist who spent years studying harmful practices among some elements of the land-based Florida shark fishing community, I am grateful to see FWC holding a public meeting that includes this important issue, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute. Overall, the scientific evidence is clear and overwhelming that while many anglers are rule-following and conservation-minded, many common land-based shark fishing practices represent a significant conservation threat to threatened, protected shark species in Florida. Additionally, the evidence is clear and overwhelming that in many cases anglers are breaking existing laws and regulations, and that in some of those cases the anglers are aware that they are breaking the law and are explicitly stating that they don’t care. Finally, the evidence is clear and overwhelming that many of the arguments put forward by land-based anglers in support of the status quo are not argued in good faith, and are intentionally crafted to misrepresent the facts of the situation. It is obvious to me, and to many expert colleagues with whom I have discussed this issue, that the FWC can and must do more to protect threatened sharks, building off of early successes that made Florida a leader in shark conservation. Specifically, the FWC can and must do more to regulate these harmful practices, enforce clear violations of existing regulations, and educate anglers about these issues. Below I will elaborate on each of these points and propose specific regulatory, enforcement, and public education changes that can be made to protect sharks without significantly infringing on anyone’s rights. I will also counter several common arguments that are put forth by bad actors in the recreational angling community. Sharks are a highly threatened group of animals, and overfishing is the largest threat they face. While it is commonly believed that recreational fishing pressure has no impact on shark population dynamics, this is simply not true. For the last several years in US waters, more non-dogfish sharks have been killed by recreational anglers than by commercial fisheries, and Florida is a recreational shark fishing hotspot. After realizing that there was an epidemic of illegal activity among land-based shark anglers in Florida, I decided to quantitatively and scientifically study this practice as part of my Ph.D. dissertation research. Let’s quickly review the relevant regulations and what counts as illegal behavior. For shark species in the prohibited species list in Florida, Florida code 68B-44 is clear that “Landing” means “the physical act of bringing an animal ashore,” and that any animal that is not released “free immediately alive and unharmed” is considered to be “Harvested.” FWC’s own best practices guide notes that “it is never legal to delay the release of a prohibited species to measure your catch or pose for a photograph.” If a shark on the prohibited species list is brought completely out of the water, it is “landed,” and that is illegal. If a shark is not released “free, immediately, alive and unharmed,” it is considered harvested and that is illegal for species on the prohibited species list. If there is any delay in release, including a delay to measure the fish or pose for photographs with it, that is illegal. Though some land-based anglers sometimes try to muddy the waters here, the facts concerning these regulations are clear and not in dispute, and have been confirmed to me by several conversations with FWC law enforcement. At least some land-based shark anglers are fully aware that they are breaking the law and explicitly state that they don’t care, but more on that later. For my research project, I looked at an online discussion forum used by hundreds of land-based recreational shark anglers in Florida. All names were anonymized and all faces were blurred to protect the privacy of individual anglers, the focus was on aggregate behavior of the group. I will note that this research paper was singled out by the American Fisheries Society as an example of research that sets a gold standard for scientific ethics using online tools, something that I’m very proud of. This research looked at how these anglers talk to one another when they believe that outsiders (including law enforcement) isn’t looking (though I will note that we did not have to create an account on the online forum to be able to read all these posts, they were all publicly visible). We had three main findings that I would like to briefly summarize here. First, we found a minimum of 389 cases of land-based shark anglers clearly and unequivocally breaking the law. Protected species are taken completely out of the water, and therefore are landed. Protected species are clearly not being released “immediately.” In some cases do not appear to be released “alive and unharmed” (While it is difficult to ascertain the health of an animal from a photograph, I’ve been up close to thousands of sharks during my research, and healthy ones do not sit still in a straight line while being barely secured by one person’s hand. We often need 3 or 4 or 5 undergraduate interns to restrain healthy sharks of the sizes depicted in these photos). Protected species are being measured before release. Anglers are posing for photos with protected species before release. There were countless more borderline cases, but there were at least 389 unequivocal cases of land-based shark anglers in Florida breaking the law. I will note that many land-based anglers are responsible, rule-following, and conservation-minded, and are concerned about the bad practices of these other anglers. Secondly, we found that the 2012 addition of hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks to the state prohibited species list had no effect on reported handling and release behaviors of land-based shark anglers. In fact, there were numerous complaints at the time of this regulation change, with some anglers explicitly stating that they would not change their practices because of it. Simply changing regulations is not enough if they are not communicated to the angling community and strictly enforced. Finally, our most troubling finding was that some land-based shark anglers were clearly aware that they were breaking the law and explicitly stating that this did not bother them. Several striking quotes are included in my paper. We also found extensive discussions of how to break the rules without getting caught by FWC law enforcement, and what to say to a FWC law enforcement officer if you are caught to avoid getting in trouble. We saw elements of this prepared script play out in media coverage of anglers who were investigated for breaking the rules. Suggested policy and enforcement changes: Clarify the regulations, at least for physiologically vulnerable hammerhead sharks which often die even if released, concerning handling and release for prohibited species. For hammerhead sharks, it is important to cut the line as soon as possible. Swimming away while trailing yards and yards of fishing line is not great for a shark, but if an angler fights it for hours and drags it up onto the beach (where it can’t breathe and lacks the buoyant support of water) just to remove the hook, that shark will almost certainly die. 40 minutes or so of “fight” seems to be a pretty critical number, much longer than that and the animal is likely to be so stressed that it will die even if released. Many anglers report that they fight hammerhead sharks for much, much longer than that. If the goal is survival of these IUCN Red List Endangered sharks, than a simple ban on retention is not enough. We need to keep up with the best available science and limit long fight times by requiring cutting the line as soon as possible. Clarify the definition of “landed.” Currently if a prohibited shark species has the tip of a fin still in the water, it is not legally considered landed, although it is suffering from the same physiological stress (likely including permanent gill damage) associated with air exposure as if it would if it were a few feet up the beach. For protected, physiologically vulnerable species of sharks, the legal standard should be leave them in the water enough that their gills are still mostly or completely submerged. Remove incentives for targeting hammerhead sharks. It is illegal in Florida state waters to land, harvest, or delay the release of hammerhead sharks to pose for photos or measure your catch. So how is it possible that a hammerhead shark focused fishing tournament is still allowed to operate? This needs to be stopped immediately. Currently, it is illegal to land or harvest hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks in Florida state waters, but legal in adjacent Federal waters. Bafflingly, it is *also* legal to catch these species in adjacent Federal waters and land them in a Florida port! This is not the case for nearly any other species that is protected in state waters but not adjacent Federal waters, and should be changed so that if you cannot land or harvest a species in Florida waters, you can’t catch it elsewhere and land it in a Florida port. My research shows that Florida’s land-based shark anglers believe that they are victims of powerful, monied interests that keep them from fishing on certain beaches. Certainly some regulations concerning beach usage preferentially favor wealthy tourists over blue-collar residents. Some kind of multi-stakeholder use agreement is needed here to ensure equitable access to the beach, and it is important to ensure that rule-following anglers are not just allowed to fish in the places that tourists don’t want to go. (Land-based anglers believe that their practices do not draw sharks to the beach but that they are targeting sharks that are already there, and there’s certainly truth to that, but chumming next to a beach full of swimming tourists is still inadvisable). Land-based fishing hotspots could also be augmented with extra resources to assist anglers in the safe handling and release of their catch, or in-water measurement devices that would allow measuring the catch without delaying release, or stationary photography that would allow for great pictures without delaying release. They could also be hotspots of enforcement, since FWC law enforcement officers cannot be expected to patrol every inch of beach in Florida. Similarly, the responsible elements of the land-based angling community need a seat at the table when discussing regulations that affect them. Currently, they believe that this is not the case, and that commercial fisheries and charterboat fisheries have much much more power. Giving them a seat at the table does not mean allowing illegal harmful practices, but it should mean working together to find solutions that work while treating them with respect. Respectful public education and stakeholder outreach efforts must be ramped up, focusing on explaining why certain fishing practices are harmful and what alternatives should be used instead- the goal is not banning fishing, the goal is modifying demonstrably harmful practices. Finally, clear violations of the rules must be enforced. When I have communicated past clear cases of lawbreaking to FWC law enforcement, I have been told that online evidence is not sufficient for an investigation, even if the angler took a video of them clearly breaking the law and bragging about it and posted it online themselves. I wonder if that policy, which wildlife law enforcement officers from several other states laughed at when I asked them about it, is no longer the case given the high profile recent “shark dragging” case? Counters to bad faith arguments made by elements of the land-based shark fishing community Whenever scientists and conservation activists make these points, three bad faith arguments are often presented by bad actors in the land-based shark fishing community. Below I briefly list and debunk them, as you will almost certainly hear versions of these arguments during the public meeting. “It’s not landed/harvested if I release it.” This is demonstrably false. Landing and harvesting have clear, explicit definitions under Florida law. If the animal is handled inappropriately before release, the rules were clearly still broken. Additionally, as noted above, many land-based anglers are aware that they are breaking the law, but later deny it if confronted by law enforcement. “The real problem is commercial fishing, don’t worry about what I do as a recreational angler.” This is not a good faith argument. Commercial fisheries in the US are heavily regulated to minimize their harm on shark populations, and recreational anglers should be regulated as well. Their impact is not negligible. “I can’t control what I catch.” Anglers spend thousands of dollars and years of their lives gathering specialized training, equipment, and tips. If I told a charter captain in Key Largo that I wanted to catch mahi-mahi, he’d get me on some mahi-mahi. If I told that captain that I’d rather catch a tarpon, we could easily do that instead. But suddenly when people are getting trouble for breaking the rules, “oh well, no one can control what they catch?” More importantly, the problem has nothing to do with catching protected species, the problem involves illegal, unnecessary, and harmful handling after the shark is caught. If a protected species is released free immediately alive and unharmed, no rules are broken. Conclusion While many Florida shark anglers are rule-following, conservation-minded individuals, there are some bad actors in the community, and some common practices are demonstrably harmful to threatened shark populations. Further regulatory action is needed to protect threatened shark species in Florida, and this can and should be done in a way that incorporates the needs and experiences of rule-following anglers without significantly infringing on anyone’s rights. I am available to answer any follow-up questions that you may have about this important issue, and I thank you for allowing me to contribute my expertise. Sincerely, Dr. David Shiffman Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Conservation Biology Simon Fraser University
  13. Most of the longer bridges held a lot of Tarpon. I mainly fished the Long Key Bridge and the 7 Mile bridge, staying on both of the bridge for a few days and nights, so I got a good look at all the feeding phases. There was no set tide as to when the Tarpon hit but most of the activity was nights, regardless of water flow or tide. Just gotta be there and present the bait accordingly, whether it be artificial lures or live bait. Other than that, could try the inlets, especially with the rougher weather. Always do very well with nasty weather in the inlets with Tarpon....very exciting fish to lean about and catch.
  14. 'How to shark fish' is a very hot topic, isn't it? Countless hours can be spent hunting for information about how to catch a shark, focusing in on this one aspect, zeroing in with a thirst like no other, gathering as much information as possible, putting it all together in form, then function, and then hitting the sand feeling (or hoping) that it will all work out okay. The intentions are all good, yes. The information may be absolutely correct, yes. But then, suddenly, one may realize after they hook a big shark and get that sucker into the wash that they are scared to death of it and have no clue whatsoever what do do next..... Living and fishing in South Florida I've seen this very scenario play out over and over....people hell-bent to catch sharks but then having little to no information on what to do with them after they get them subdued. Some even have no clue as to what they just caught becasue, to them, a shark is a shark. Sometimes, even, they stage themselves in or around impossible situations, like off bridges, or off jetties loaded with big rocks, all with little to no regard on how to safely land/release the sharks....... list is endless. Don't get me wrong, here. I support wholeheartedly those who try very hard to pass the correct 'how to catch a shark' information along related to the areas that they fish, information like bait to use, etc. Lot of hours can go into that information, lot of hard work, and a lot of dedication....hats off. However, it must be realized that this is only ONE aspect to this sport, catching sharks. Giving someone a part of the know-how is only a part of the package. Because land based shark fishing, you see, is a PACKAGE DEAL, meaning ALL aspects of it must be mastered (as much as possible) else disaster is imminent, either to the fisherman or to the shark. Trial and error has no place in this sport because trial and error is precisely what might kill this sport here in Florida. So many dead sharks are washing up on our beaches, all related to improper catch and release practices, so much so that FWC is having a meeting this month to possibly implement specific laws to curtail the sport once and for all, laws that may or may not carry over to other states as well. If anything, follow the logical steps while shark fishing, just like any other fish, a package deal: Know the species: sharks are unique. Learn as much about the species in your area as you do about the tackle and/or techniques to catch them. Hammerheads, for instance, fight to the death. They build up tremendous amounts of lactic acid during the fighting process. You can even smell this when up close. Hammerheads can also bite their own tails; they are limber enough to "O" up. Blacktips can smack/jump up several feet off the ground. I've had them jump up as high as eye level...never assume that a shark can't get ya on the sand! Know thy weather because weather conditions can and do play a significant role during the release process: wave action or not, water clarity or not, rip currents, tides, atmospheric conditions and so forth. Bad or unfavorable weather conditions can play a significant role in promoting disaster if not prepared. Bait deployment by yaking follows suit....a whole different subject that must be mastered as well. . Know and study the fishing location: is there a safe and practical landing zone? Can you even fish there? Is it a public beach that will be jammed packed later on? Were dry-runs made to ensure that a shark can be easily and safely worked and then released in the landing zone? How was the tidal conditions during that dry-run? Maybe it might be exact opposite during the next tidal phase....answer all the fundamental questions with as much FACT as possible, no guess work. Have the correct gear! Do not skimp on gear -- you want to bring the fish in as fast as possible or as green as possible with no break-offs, regardless if yaking or casting. If you cannot afford the correct gear, don't fish for sharks! Terminal tackle plays a vital role for not only catching sharks but for a quick and effective release. Remove the barb from the hook becasue the hook can then be removed easily--faster. A big barbed hook is nearly impossible to remove once embedded deeply. If using metal leader, use wire instead of cable because wire can be snipped instantly with small cutters. I know some who fish for sharks with 1/4in cable from Home Depot, for example. Try to cut that in a hurry LoL. My point is this: the little things do add up to significantly reduce the time it takes to get the shark back into the water. Mere seconds can make a HUGE difference, even to the point of the shark's life. Have a well experienced team around, people who KNOW how to handle big sharks. Explain and/or teach as much the package as possible to people who don't know before fishing with them. NO FEAR for everyone. Have readily available at all times the TOOLS necessary for a quick and effective release; not buried in bags or in car or long distances away: bolt cutters, wire cutters, de-hookers, tail rope, etc. Waste no time de-hooking. If cannot remove hook, cut it. And if no tools around, just cut the line. Do not attempt to bring shark up on beach with no way to release it just for a picture. After de-hooking, drag shark back into the deeper water by tail, turn sideways, and slowly aim fish outward open ocean and then give her a good shove off. In most cases, the shark will give off a good kick and swim off nicely. Sometimes this process has to be done a number of times because of the wave action pushing them back in. Sometimes, even, it may be required to swim with fish until she perks up and then do the swim-off procedure. Regardless, always be aware during this process that the fish being released is in a "target condition" , meaning that other sharks nearby can aggressively attack. That's why I always recommend staying on the "beach-side" or "structure side" of the fish being released so as to have a barrier in case another shark attacks, especially on dark nights! And remember, there's no way one can predict what size and kind of shark will hit a bait, whether it on the endangered list or not, be ready at ALL times and NEVER assume that just because you are on a very busy beach with lots of boat traffic amid a beautiful day that you will catch easy-peazy fish. Below is one of the open letters to FWC for this very meeting taking place here in Florida, which I, amongst other locals shark fishermen, will be attending in our defense. Lots of attention to this sport, both from the scientific community as well as the political community, lots and lots of attention. An open letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on revising land-based recreational shark fishing regulations Note: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding a public meeting on April 25th which will include the issue of land-based recreational shark fishing. Part of my dissertation research focused on this topic, so I am submitting expert testimony, but since I no longer live in Florida I am submitting it remotely. I am sharing my testimony here. Anyone else who is interested in attending the meeting in person (Fort Lauderdale Marriott on April 25th), or submitting testimony remotely, is free to quote my talking points below if the appropriate references are cited. Dear Chair Rivard, Vice Chair Spottswood, Commissioner Kellam, Commissioner Lester, Commissioner Nicklaus, Commissioner Rood, and Commissioner Sole of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), My name is Dr. David Shiffman, and I studied land-based shark fishing in Florida as part of my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. This research was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Fisheries Reserch and covered in major media outlets including National Geographic, Nature, and the Miami Herald Accordingly, I would like to provide expert testimony for your April 25th public hearing on this topic. Since I no longer reside in Florida I am submitting this testimony remotely. As a conservation biologist who spent years studying harmful practices among some elements of the land-based Florida shark fishing community, I am grateful to see FWC holding a public meeting that includes this important issue, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute. Overall, the scientific evidence is clear and overwhelming that while many anglers are rule-following and conservation-minded, many common land-based shark fishing practices represent a significant conservation threat to threatened, protected shark species in Florida. Additionally, the evidence is clear and overwhelming that in many cases anglers are breaking existing laws and regulations, and that in some of those cases the anglers are aware that they are breaking the law and are explicitly stating that they don’t care. Finally, the evidence is clear and overwhelming that many of the arguments put forward by land-based anglers in support of the status quo are not argued in good faith, and are intentionally crafted to misrepresent the facts of the situation. It is obvious to me, and to many expert colleagues with whom I have discussed this issue, that the FWC can and must do more to protect threatened sharks, building off of early successes that made Florida a leader in shark conservation. Specifically, the FWC can and must do more to regulate these harmful practices, enforce clear violations of existing regulations, and educate anglers about these issues. Below I will elaborate on each of these points and propose specific regulatory, enforcement, and public education changes that can be made to protect sharks without significantly infringing on anyone’s rights. I will also counter several common arguments that are put forth by bad actors in the recreational angling community. Sharks are a highly threatened group of animals, and overfishing is the largest threat they face. While it is commonly believed that recreational fishing pressure has no impact on shark population dynamics, this is simply not true. For the last several years in US waters, in USmore non-dogfish sharks have been killed by recreational anglers than by commercial fisheries, and Florida is a recreational shark fishing hotspot. After realizing that there was an epicedemic of illegal activity among land-based shark anglers in Florida, I decided to quantitatively and scientifically study this practice as part of my Ph.D. dissertation research. Let’s quickly review the relevant regulations and what counts as illegal behavior. For shark species in the prohibited species list in Florida, Florida code 68B-44 is clear that “Landing” means “the physical act of bringing an animal ashore,” and that any animal that is not released “free immediately alive and unharmed” is considered to be “Harvested.” FWC’s own best practices guide notes that “it is never legal to delay the release of a prohibited species to measure your catch or pose for a photograph.” If a shark on the prohibited species list is brought completely out of the water, it is “landed,” and that is illegal. If a shark is not released “free, immediately, alive and unharmed,” it is considered harvested and that is illegal for species on the prohibited species list. If there is any delay in release, including a delay to measure the fish or pose for photographs with it, that is illegal. Though some land-based anglers sometimes try to muddy the waters here, the facts concerning these regulations are clear and not in dispute, and have been confirmed to me by several conversations with FWC law enforcement. At least some land-based shark anglers are fully aware that they are breaking the law and explicitly state that they don’t care, but more on that later. For my research project, I looked at an online discussion forum used by hundreds of land-based recreational shark anglers in Florida. All names were anonymized and all faces were blurred to protect the privacy of individual anglers, the focus was on aggregate behavior of the group. I will note that this research paper was singled out by the American Fisheries Society as an example of research that sets a gold standard for scientific ethics using online tools, something that I’m very proud of. This research looked at how these anglers talk to one another when they believe that outsiders (including law enforcement) isn’t looking (though I will note that we did not have to create an account on the online forum to be able to read all these posts, they were all publicly visible). We had three main findings that I would like to briefly summarize here. First, we found a minimum of 389 cases of land-based shark anglers clearly and unequivocally breaking the law. Protected species are taken completely out of the water, and therefore are landed. Protected species are clearly not being released “immediately.” In some cases do not appear to be released “alive and unharmed” (While it is difficult to ascertain the health of an animal from a photograph, I’ve been up close to thousands of sharks during my research, and healthy ones do not sit still in a straight line while being barely secured by one person’s hand. We often need 3 or 4 or 5 undergraduate interns to restrain healthy sharks of the sizes depicted in these photos). Protected species are being measured before release. Anglers are posing for photos with protected species before release. There were countless more borderline cases, but there were at least 389 unequivocal cases of land-based shark anglers in Florida breaking the law. I will note that many land-based anglers are responsible, rule-following, and conservation-minded, and are concerned about the bad practices of these other anglers. Secondly, we found that the 2012 addition of hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks to the state prohibited species list had no effect on reported handling and release behaviors of land-based shark anglers. In fact, there were numerous complaints at the time of this regulation change, with some anglers explicitly stating that they would not change their practices because of it. Simply changing regulations is not enough if they are not communicated to the angling community and strictly enforced. Finally, our most troubling finding was that some land-based shark anglers were clearly aware that they were breaking the law and explicitly stating that this did not bother them. Several striking quotes are included in my paper. We also found extensive discussions of how to break the rules without getting caught by FWC law enforcement, and what to say to a FWC law enforcement officer if you are caught to avoid getting in trouble. We saw elements of this prepared script play out in media coverage of anglers who were investigated for breaking the rules. Suggested policy and enforcement changes: Clarify the regulations, at least for physiological vulnerable hammerhead sharks which often die even if released, concerning handling and release for prohibited species. For hammerhead sharks, it is important to cut the line as soon as possible. Swimming away while trailing yards and yards of fishing line is not great for a shark, but if an angler fights it for hours and drags it up onto the beach (where it can’t breathe and lacks the buoyant support of water) just to remove the hook, that shark will almost certainly die. 40 minutes or so "fight" seems to be a pretty critical number, much longer than that and the animal is likely to be so stressed that it will die even if released. Many anglers report that they fight hammerhead sharks for much, much longer than that. If the goal is survival of these IUCN Red List Endangered sharks, than a simple ban on retention is not enough. We need to keep up with the best available science and limit long fight times by requiring cutting the line as soon as possible. Clarify the definition of “landed.” Currently if a prohibited shark species has the tip of a fin still in the water, it is not legally considered landed, although it is suffering from the same physiological stress (likely including permanent gill damage) associated with air exposure as if it would if it were a few feet up the beach. For protected, physiologically vulnerable species of sharks, the legal standard should be leave them in the water enough that their gills are still mostly or completely submerged. Remove incentives for targeting hammerhead sharks. It is illegal in Florida state waters to land, harvest, or delay the release of hammerhead sharks to pose for photos or measure your catch. So how is it possible that a hammerhead shark focused fishing tournament is still allowed to operate? This needs to be stopped immediately. Currently, it is illegal to land or harvest hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks in Florida state waters, but legal in adjacent Federal waters. Bafflingly, it is *also* legal to catch these species in adjacent Federal waters and land them in a Florida port! This is not the case for nearly any other species that is protected in state waters but not adjacent Federal waters, and should be changed so that if you cannot land or harvest a species in Florida waters, you can’t catch it elsewhere and land it in a Florida port. My research shows that Florida’s land-based shark anglers believe that they are victims of powerful, monied interests that keep them from fishing on certain beaches. Certainly some regulations concerning beach usage preferentially favor wealthy tourists over blue-collar residents. Some kind of multi-stakeholder use agreement is needed here to ensure equitable access to the beach, and it is important to ensure that rule-following anglers are not just allowed to fish in the places that tourists don’t want to go. (Land-based anglers believe that their practices do not draw sharks to the beach but that they are targeting sharks that are already there, and there’s certainly truth to that, but chumming next to a beach full of swimming tourists is still inadvisable). Land-based fishing hotspots could also be augmented with extra resources to assist anglers in the safe handling and release of their catch, or in-water measurement devices that would allow measuring the catch without delaying release, or stationary photography that would allow for great pictures without delaying release. They could also be hotspots of enforcement, since FWC law enforcement officers cannot be expected to patrol every inch of beach in Florida. Similarly, the responsible elements of the land-based angling community need a seat at the table when discussing regulations that affect them. Currently, they believe that this is not the case, and that commercial fisheries and charterboat fisheries have much much more power. Giving them a seat at the table does not mean allowing illegal harmful practices, but it should mean working together to find solutions that work while treating them with respect. Respectful public education and stakeholder outreach efforts must be ramped up, focusing on explaining why certain fishing practices are harmful and what alternatives should be used instead- the goal is not banning fishing, the goal is modifying demonstrably harmful practices. Finally, clear violations of the rules must be enforced. When I have communicated past clear cases of lawbreaking to FWC law enforcement, I have been told that online evidence is not sufficient for an investigation, even if the angler took a video of them clearly breaking the law and bragging about it and posted it online themselves. I wonder if that policy, which wildlife law enforcement officers from several other states laughed at when I asked them about it, is no longer the case given the high profile recent “shark dragging” case? Counters to bad faith arguments made by elements of the land-based shark fishing community Whenever scientists and conservation activists make these points, three bad faith arguments are often presented by bad actors in the land-based shark fishing community. Below I briefly list and debunk them, as you will almost certainly hear versions of these arguments during the public meeting. “It’s not landed/harvested if I release it.” This is demonstrably false. Landing and harvesting have clear, explicit definitions under Florida law. If the animal is handled inappropriately before release, the rules were clearly still broken. Additionally, as noted above, many land-based anglers are aware that they are breaking the law, but later deny it if confronted by law enforcement. “The real problem is commercial fishing, don’t worry about what I do as a recreational angler.” This is not a good faith argument. Commercial fisheries in the US are heavily regulated to minimize their harm on shark populations, and recreational anglers should be regulated as well. Their impact is not negligible. “I can’t control what I catch.” Anglers spend thousands of dollars and years of their lives gathering specialized training, equipment, and tips. If I told a charter captain in Key Largo that I wanted to catch mahi-mahi, he’d get me on some mahi-mahi. If I told that captain that I’d rather catch a tarpon, we could easily do that instead. But suddenly when people are getting trouble for breaking the rules, “oh well, no one can control what they catch?” More importantly, the problem has nothing to do with catching protected species, the problem involves illegal, unnecessary, and harmful handling after the shark is caught. If a protected species is released free immediately alive and unharmed, no rules are broken. Conclusion While many Florida shark anglers are rule-following, conservation-minded individuals, there are some bad actors in the community, and some common practices are demonstrably harmful to threatened shark populations. Further regulatory action is needed to protect threatened shark species in Florida, and this can and should be done in a way that incorporates the needs and experiences of rule-following anglers without significantly infringing on anyone’s rights. I am available to answer any follow-up questions that you may have about this important issue, and I thank you for allowing me to contribute my expertise. Sincerely, Dr. David Shiffman Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Conservation Biology Simon Fraser University ↑
  15. As of this posting, just spent a few days down there fishing the bridges, Long Key, Seven Mile....all the way to Key West. Tarpon everywhere! Stacked thick in the current, hugging the pilings...easy pickings. I've never seen them so thick. Lots of big snook pods as well. Water was very clear and very flat with some passes very heavy with weeds. The weed lines usually disappear with the tidal changes. I didn't see any weed activity at night on the seven mile, for instance, whereas during the morning it was loaded. There's a pretty decent front creeping its way down here now with strong winds, so the weeds might get thicker. Just gotta watch the forecast and plan accordingly.....always options. Lots of luck to ya.