Red tide crisis: FWC issues new fishing regulations for Tampa Bay in wake of bloom

Red Tide

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The red tide bloom impacting Tampa Bay is now changing recreational fishing measures in our area.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued new measures on Friday to temporarily make snook, redfish and spotted seatrout catch-and-release only in Tampa Bay. The new regulation went into effect immediately and is due to recent impacts from red tide, FWC officials said.

“We’ve seen the devastation to the redfish, trout and snook populations in Tampa Bay, and we support the catch-and-release initiative taken by FWC,” Coastal Conservation Association Florida Executive Director Brian Gorski said. “In working with FWC on this initiative, we’ve heard support from members and guides throughout the region who also understand the need for such a change. We must protect the fish and our waterways so that generations to come can enjoy the thrill of catching one of these iconic species.”

The catch-and-release only measures are in effect for the following areas:

  • All Florida waters of Hillsborough County
  • All Florida waters of Pinellas County
    • EXCLUDED: All waters of the Anclote River and its tributaries
  • All Florida waters of Manatee County north of State Road 64
    • INCLUDED: All waters of the Braden River and all tributaries of the Manatee River
    • EXCLUDED: All waters of Palma Sola Bay

The new regulations issued Friday come just more than a month after normal regulations resumed for snook, redfish and spotted seatrout in our area. Regulations that had been implemented due to severe red tide from 2017 to 2019 were lifted on June 1.

“While it’s unfortunate that we must do this so close to the recent reopening of these species to harvest in this area, we know temporary catch-and-release measures such as these are successful in keeping fisheries sustainable throughout red tide events such as this one,” FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said. “We will continue working with our partners, stakeholders and local communities to evaluate this situation.”

The mid-week red tide update issued Wednesday by the FWC showed red tide at background to high concentrations in 36 water samples taken in and offshore of Pinellas County, very low to high concentrations in 22 Hillsborough County samples and background to high concentrations in 14 Manatee County samples. You can check the latest red tide samples and map on our red tide page.

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