Why It Matters: Skyway Fishing Pier State Park (Skyway Pier) is a popular angling destination for many recreational fishermen in Florida who may not have access to a boat or have mobility issues. Due to its proximity to breeding colonies of pelicans, itis also a hot spot for pelicans getting entangled in fishing line, which may cause injury or death. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was charged with a large task in mitigating this human-wildlife conflict and their decision ensures the sustainability of a non-game wildlife species as well as protects access to a popular recreational angling site.
- Since the latter half of 2022, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and other in-state and national partners have been involved in discussions with the FWC to come to a fair compromise that does not overly restrict angling access at the pier and cuts down on the number of pelican entanglements.
- On February 16, CSF, along with the American Sportfishing Association, Florida Guides Association, Hubbard’s Marina, Salt Strong, and All Florida, submitted a letter that contained recommendations from the recreational angling community on how to come to an effective compromise.
- On July 19, the FWC voted to modify fishing regulations at Skyway Pier that included many of the recommendations put forward by the recreational angling community.
Per the FWC, starting October 1, 2023, anglers must have proof that they completed the Pier Fishing Education Course which is a new annual requirement. This course will better inform anglers on what to do in the event a pelican becomes entangled in their line. Also, from November 15 through March 15 each year, fishing rigs with more than one hook attached (e.g., sabiki rig, chicken rig, topwater plug) and treble hooks are prohibited, and anglers are limited to the use of no more than two sets of hook-and-line gear. The FWC cites this time period as one that results in the highest number of pelican entanglements.
As much of this equipment is essential to catching baitfish, anglers can still have this equipment in their vehicles, just not in use at Skyway Pier from November 15 through March 15.
The FWC will reevaluate the success of the modifications two years after implementation.
While it is important to protect angling access as sportsmen and women in Florida contribute millions of dollars per year for conservation efforts through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, is paramount to protecting the future of our time honored sporting traditions.
CSF commends the FWC for working with a robust number of stakeholders to identify an adequate compromise between working groups, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Sunshine State’s hunters and anglers.