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Spanish Mackerel as Bait

ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
Hey Everybody, I know this has been discussed before. Such as here in this thread. The question is how and when can we use Spanish Mackerel as bait in Florida waters?

But I am confused.

Prior discussions, and the legal code itself, seems to indicate you can't use them for CUT bait. You can't use the heads as bait after eating them either. But people talk about them as one of the best baits for shark, for blue marlin, for king mackerel.... Can they ONLY be used in whole condition? I ask because my local bait shop sells Spanish Mackerel for bait. They don't tell you how to use it. They just sell it as bait. I asked the guy about the legality of it as bait, and he said it was perfectly legal here in Florida.

Do people just ignore the law? Or is there a loophole that everyone exploits? Or have prior discussions concluded incorrectly?

Thanks!

Replies

  • poncedoradoponcedorado Posts: 625 Officer
    you're only supposed to use them whole. 

    For marlin, guys are rigging them whole anyway. Kingfish I think live is preferred but not sure. For sharks, yeah if you cut it in half or fillet it, that's not legal.

    I'm sure it's a rule that a lot of guys break under the assumption that as long as they're not killing an illegal mackerel, what's the difference whether they cut it up or not. Understandable and probably not morally wrong, but still against the letter of the law.
  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    Yeah, that is what I assumed. Whole only.

    Weird law. I am trying to understand the logic behind this. I assume they are trying to minimize the number of mackerel taken by recreational anglers? But I think it would make more sense if they lowered the bag limit and removed the restriction. Change the bag limit from 15 to 5. They are pretty easy to catch. Even 5 seems like a lot to take home to me. 15 is a number of mackerel I wouldn't know what to do with unless it is the apocalypse and there is no more grocery industry... With a limit of 5 you could eat 3 of them in the next week or two, and 2 more could be saved/used for cut bait. It is among the best cut baits. It holds the hook well, sits in the water well, it's oily and aromatic, and bloody, and it attracts all kinds of desirable other fish. It gets big, quality hits as a cut bait.

    Maybe FWC considers the nutritional value into this equation? Maybe since it is rich in Omega 3 oil, maybe they are saying "don't waste this fish." But this would then mean used in whole condition is likely a loophole to support charter fishing and tourism.

    It does seem really weird that you can buy (or catch?) however many mackerel you want (up to 15?) and then go use them for bait all day long, but you aren't allowed to cut them. Gutting, hooking, removing the spine for rigging is all legal... Whatever you do, don't cut them into chunks. If you are trolling a whole mackerel and a predatory fish bites half of it off, are you in danger of being cited? Is it a precarious moment on the hook before you surrender it back to the ocean (before an FWC Officer sees)? This whole thing seems a bit loony.

    I guess it's all about how we target fish, then...

    I sent an email to FWC and asked this question. I will report back what they say.


  • poncedoradoponcedorado Posts: 625 Officer
    Pretty much all fish have a "must be landed in whole condition" requirement.

    It's just for enforceability of size and bag limits. The point to keep people from catching a few dozen 11" mackerel, cutting them into pieces and telling the officer that the the chunks are from 15 legal ones
  • CaptJCaptJ Posts: 1,435 Officer
    All fish have to be landed in whole condition except for fillets brought back from the Bahamas, and you would have to prove it. Meanwhile, mackerel make great Kingfish baits whole.
  • tankeredtankered Gainesvill, FlPosts: 1,177 Officer
    But what kind of fool wants to trade a succulent spanish for a marginal king?
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 16,246 AG
    tankered said:
    But what kind of fool wants to trade a succulent spanish for a marginal king?
    i like both equally, but i see no benefit of trading one for the other.   
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • Salty Dawg44Salty Dawg44 Homosassa, FLPosts: 1,323 Officer
    They can be big and whole and still be good bait. This one was attacked by a King at boat side as I was about to land it. I've also had a Grouper take one from me over our shallow rocks.

    Offshore they make great Billfish and Wahoo baits.








    MY WORST FEAR......THAT WHEN I DIE MY WIFE WILL SELL ALL MY BOATS & FISHING GEAR FOR WHAT I TOLD HER I PAID FOR IT.......

    I may not always agree with what you say,
    but I will always respect your right to be wrong!
  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    CaptJ said:
    All fish have to be landed in whole condition except for fillets brought back from the Bahamas, and you would have to prove it. Meanwhile, mackerel make great Kingfish baits whole.

    Don't charter boats offer filet services on the boat, often during the boat ride back to shore? This is how they did it in California on the last charter boat I was on years ago. They filleted the fish for us while still out on the water while cruising back in. I assumed this was common practice. But maybe not applicable in Florida...
  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    They can be big and whole and still be good bait. This one was attacked by a King at boat side as I was about to land it. I've also had a Grouper take one from me over our shallow rocks.

    Offshore they make great Billfish and Wahoo baits.








    Can you target sharks with whole spanish?
  • conchydongconchydong Pompano BeachPosts: 10,748 AG
     ABombs said:
    CaptJ said:
    All fish have to be landed in whole condition except for fillets brought back from the Bahamas, and you would have to prove it. Meanwhile, mackerel make great Kingfish baits whole.

    Don't charter boats offer filet services on the boat, often during the boat ride back to shore? This is how they did it in California on the last charter boat I was on years ago. They filleted the fish for us while still out on the water while cruising back in. I assumed this was common practice. But maybe not applicable in Florida...
    In California the fillet has to be a certain size and a skin tag left on it for ID purposes. Florida law does not allow that.

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

  • Salty Dawg44Salty Dawg44 Homosassa, FLPosts: 1,323 Officer
    ABombs said:


    Can you target sharks with whole spanish?
    They will feed on on both live and fresh dead Spanish.




    MY WORST FEAR......THAT WHEN I DIE MY WIFE WILL SELL ALL MY BOATS & FISHING GEAR FOR WHAT I TOLD HER I PAID FOR IT.......

    I may not always agree with what you say,
    but I will always respect your right to be wrong!
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,563 Captain
     ABombs said:
    CaptJ said:
    All fish have to be landed in whole condition except for fillets brought back from the Bahamas, and you would have to prove it. Meanwhile, mackerel make great Kingfish baits whole.

    Don't charter boats offer filet services on the boat, often during the boat ride back to shore? This is how they did it in California on the last charter boat I was on years ago. They filleted the fish for us while still out on the water while cruising back in. I assumed this was common practice. But maybe not applicable in Florida...
    In California the fillet has to be a certain size and a skin tag left on it for ID purposes. Florida law does not allow that.
    I don't see why Florida cannot adopt the same policy.
  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    Pretty much all fish have a "must be landed in whole condition" requirement.

    It's just for enforceability of size and bag limits. The point to keep people from catching a few dozen 11" mackerel, cutting them into pieces and telling the officer that the the chunks are from 15 legal ones

    I have been thinking about this..... What about using mangrove snapper heads as bait? It's nice to use the heads as bait.

    One time night fishing on a bridge, I had another fisherman walk up to me in the dark trying to be friendly. He asked me "want a bait fish?" I said sure! Then he handed me a 13" mangrove snapper. At first I thought it was some kind of joke, but he was catching dinner sized snappers and putting them right back under the bridge as bait.

    I know this is not legal, but I am curious about using the heads after eating.
  • poncedoradoponcedorado Posts: 625 Officer
    edited February 22 #15
    It is a bit of a gray area in the possession rules.

    On one hand, once a fish is cleaned and at your home, it's considered food rather than fish/game & of course it can be cut/packaged/stored however the user sees fit. So for example if you had some fried snapper left over from last night's dinner, made a sandwich out of it and brought it on the boat, that's obviously completely fine.

    However, say you brought the head from that same snapper in your cooler, you could likely still be ticketed for it. Similar to if you bought a whole red snapper from publix and put it in your cooler for lunch. You didn't break the law, but at the same time it's probably not worth the hassle.

    EDIT: I was incorrect here- the possession rule is not a gray area. I looked up the actual language on the landed whole condition and you actually can't have the cut up regulated fish, regardless of where it came from or when it was caught.

    "(2) Landed in Whole Condition Requirement – A person harvesting Spanish mackerel shall land each Spanish mackerel in whole condition. A person may not possess in or on Florida Waters, on any public or private fishing pier, on a bridge or catwalk attached to a bridge from which fishing is allowed, or on any jetty, a Spanish mackerel that has been beheaded, sliced, divided, filleted, ground, skinned, scaled, or deboned. This provision will not be construed to prohibit the evisceration (gutting) of a Spanish mackerel or removal of gills from a Spanish mackerel."

  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    Hey everybody, soooooo.... I got an email back from FWC with surprising feedback to this discussion. After all this reading into the laws, and discussing it here, I was really surprised to read this this morning:

    Good day Axxxxx, 
     
    You can use mackerel as bait but they must be in whole condition. If you use mackerel as bait they will count towards your daily bag limit. However, if the mackerel were legally harvest in days prior, they can be cut up and used as bait. 
     
    This may sound slightly odd but feel free to give me a call with any questions. 
     
    Thanks, 
    Justin Wxxxxxx
    850-556-xxxx

  • gogittumgogittum SW New MexicoPosts: 2,463 Captain
    OK, now how do you prove it was caught in days prior ??  Still sounds gray to me.
  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    gogittum said:
    OK, now how do you prove it was caught in days prior ??  Still sounds gray to me.

    Maybe it's because it is frozen in a cooler? I agree with you, but I am beginning to feel like getting ticketed for a questionable bait situation is unlikely, given this great reveal by an FWC official. They just revealed this is not their focus, possibly for reasons that poncedorado brought up. Maybe once it has crossed the boundary from game to food, it is no longer their focus? They must really just be focusing on catching people breaking the rules in the act of doing it. Like cutting up a mackerel fresh out of the water... That might get you a ticket if caught in the act, (depending on the officer). They want people to be able to show their work of the moment, it seems. If you caught a 14" mackerel today, prove it is that big until it has officially left the business of game fish and entered the consumer food chain.
  • ABombsABombs Fort MyersPosts: 15 Deckhand
    Anecdotal situation to consider, given these rules.... Yesterday I was on the beach and I caught a 15" Spanish mackerel. True story. I unhooked it clean and swift, and was reviving it for release. Only thing I hadn't considered was how clear the water was, and how far the shallow area stretched before the deep channel began... It began to take off confidently on it's own. I watched it swim about 20 feet, and then it stopped for a little break. And out of nowhere swoops in a giant crane, and it grabs the mackerel, and pretty much immediately swallows it whole. I couldn't believe it. I was so happy about a smooth release, and then it got stolen by a preying bird.

    So then if I am 100% honest and dutiful fisherman, this fish counts against my daily bag limit? :D It must, right?
  • conchydongconchydong Pompano BeachPosts: 10,748 AG
    Not if you released it. It will count against the Crane’s (Heron?) daily limit though. 🙄

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

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