If mahi are really that fast growing, then why not raise the size limit? When I was longlining swords in the 70s we frequently had schools of fish where all were over 10 lbs around the boat as we pulled in the line. We rarely messed with them since they had little market value back then and we wanted to get our line in and get the sword catch to market. We would sometimes have 30-40 lb bulls grab one of the longline baits as we were pulling them in. I see photos and videos of commercial fishing for mahi in other parts of the world were every fish in the catch is 15-20 lbs or bigger. My father rarely fished them off Cuba in the 40s and 50s, but when he did he'd fill the boat with fish all over 15 lbs. There is a ton of fresh mahi being imported into S. FL, and they are all cores weighing around 15 lbs. But off South Florida and the Keys the average size seems to be around 5 lbs, and many schools consist of fish much smaller than that! If we are serious about wanting bigger fish, shouldn't we increase the size limit? What would you rather have, 30 mahi of 5 lbs, or 15 mahi of 10 lbs? Same total weight, but you killed half the number of fish. I agree, there aren't as many 30-40 lb mahi in our waters as there used to be. As to commercial mahi landings in Florida, landings data shows that the bast majority of that catch comes from the St. Augustine to Jacksonville area. The mahi caught up there are landed far offshore, and are larger fish that migrate along the east side of the Bahamas or on the east side of the Gulfstream. I've gone on long distance trips out of New Smyrna Beach to the area past the east side of the Gulfstream and the mahi you find out there are usually 20 lbs and up. None of those 18"-20" lizards.
I don't think recreational people fishing is harming the population as much as commercial fishing does, or, something that nobody is talking about here, habitat destruction. I'm talking about the Sargassum seaweed. Over the past few decades, some people have decided that they HATE the sargassum weed, as it can clog beaches, it stinks, it clogs engines, and some say it can even discourage tourism. There are literal machines out there, that are being used, that are designed now to scoop up sargassum weed and dispose of it. And about a decade ago, supposedly you can use the sargassum weed and turn it into a profit, by turning the weed itself into perfumes and fertilizers. Just google "sargassum weed harvesting"... tons of results pop up. This is like ripping all the trees out of the Amazon rain forest, and then wondering where all the animals went. The Sargassum weed is the literal foundation of our offshore ecosystem. The more weed there is, then there's more plankton; the more plankton, the more small fish; the more small fish, there will be more shrimp and crabs and other small creatures that call the seaweed home, which in turn just allows more jacks, triggerfish, tripletails and other fish to thrive... And of course, if that ecosystem is thriving, then our favorite predatory fish like mahi, tuna, sailfish and marlin will have more fish to eat. Not to mention that baby mahi, sailfish and sea turtles use the seaweed as a refuge and hiding place until they are large enough to brave the ocean and stand a chance. How many fish and sea turtles never even have a chance to maturity because there was little to no seaweed to hide?Ask anyone who fished in the 80s and 90s. They said they would just go out, troll the giant I-95 sized weedline every time, and catch dolphin and head home. The past few years, there has been such little weedlines offshore, that when you do find a house sized patch of weed, it's a rarity. I can count on one hand the amount of times we have found a sizable weedline.EXCEPT this year. Supposedly some environmentalist group put a stop to seaweed harvesting last year somewhere in the Carribbean. This is what a charter boat captain told me earlier this year, although I have not found a source. But what I do know is that there has been more weed this year than I have ever seen in the past, so much so that a ton of people are complaining they are having difficulty trolling due to their baits snagging weeds. And our past few trips have been excellent with all gaffable fish caught, 10+ fish each time. There's also been a ton of big 30+ pound fish caught within the past month in the Keys.As far as raising the size limit... I don't think that would have a positive effect on the fishery, like a 25" minimum. So many fish are 24" and most people gaff those fish - can you imagine how many recreational people will gaff a 23"-24" fish, or tangle that fish up in a net, and will kill those super-wiggling schoolies trying to get the hook out, only to realize that their fish is not 25"? I don't think it would be necessary, but I would be okay with there being a 5 fish per person limit. Most people fish with 3+ people, and 15+ schoolies is plenty enough to feed a few families, and on charters there's commmonly 5+ people including the captain and mate, and 25+ schoolies is more than plenty. I know a few people that go on a slay fest and will kill 50-60 fish a few times a year, and every time I ask, who the heck filleted 50 schoolies, and they always tell me "We sold them whole". These people don't have commercial permits... That's a different subject. Again, I don't think recreational is what is harming the fishery, but rather commercial. Mahi is one of the top fish on menus, not even as a special, but as a regular menu item. Who is supplying all this fish? Where is it coming from?http://akumaldiveshop.com/sargassum-the-what-where-and-why-of-this-seaweed/