Little Known Statute Gets Pier Anglers in Trouble
By Capt. Mel Berman, 970-WFLA
** A specific Florida fishing regulation – which disallows pier anglers from continuing to fish once they clean their catch – is now being vigorously enforced. The concept corresponds with the rule for boaters, where they must return to shore with their fish in a whole condition before they can be cleaned. Once an angler cleans his or her catch, there would be no good way to determine whether any of the fish is of legal size – and which species fillet are in a cooler. Therefore the “no-fishing-after-filleting” rule for private or public piers was written to prevent anglers from concealing illegal fish.

As with boat-caught fish, you are permitted to gut your catch – but the fish must remain whole until you are ready to clean them and head home.

This came to light with receipt of many emails from anglers fishing the Gulf Pier where the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department has stepped up enforcement of this relatively little known regulation. And I must confess that when I heard of anglers being told that they cannot resume fishing once they clean their fish, I frankly thought that the Sheriff’s Deputy was wrong. I followed up with a call to Gulf Pier and they too thought the deputy was in error – and that it would be okay to continue fishing – even after cleaning their catch.  A few days later, I received a call from Sgt. Glenn Wilson of the Pinellas Sheriff’s department who cited the actual statute which clearly prohibits a resumption of fishing once a pier angler fillets their catch. I must also say that I have known Sgt. Wilson for a number of years and I can tell you he’s the kind of enforcement officer that we all should encourage. He is very strong on enforcing all fishery regulations.To many, this regulation is yet another annoying rule that targets less affluent anglers who must confine their fishing to shore based sites. But please bear in mind that we are all in this together and, though we may find the regs annoying and inconvenient, these rules are the best way to assure the future of fishing to all Floridians.
No matter what your position on our system of rules and regs, I think that most will agree that they appear to be having the desired effect. Despite a rapidly burgeoning population, fishing in Florida waters is still the best in the nation.

Unfortunately, it has taken a massive effort by fisheries manages and regulators to maintain our stock using a vast and comprehensive series of statues that are designed to control who takes what – how many – what size – and when. ”Nowadays it takes a lawyer to know what you can or cannot catch!” That’s the lament heard all across the state by anglers, frustrated with the massive collection of rules and regulations. Yet, with Florida’s populations growing by about a thousand a day, we need to do all we can to insure that our precious fishery resources are protected and distributed fairly – not only for today, but for generations to come. So it’s really very simple – just clean your catch when you are ready to head home.