Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission drafts new cobia fishing regulations

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Fishing regulations have been the topic of many conversations in our area this summer, mostly regarding red snapper, but another fish may soon be heavily regulated as well.

After local fisherman brought the low cobia count in Gulf state waters to the attention of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, new regulations were drafted to protect the population.

"The regulations and stuff that's going to affect our business is going to affect our livelihood and we've all come to realize that there's more people out here fishing and there's still the same amount of fish, so with the increased amount of fishermen here, we're going to have to do something as far as the regulations, we can't keep going with the same regulations that we've had in the past," said Todd Jones, Panama City Inshore Captain.

Local angler Dustin Steichen agrees. "The problem is we're taking to many of those big spawning size females. One of those females can produce a few million eggs for the big ones. So I mean you figure we take, one boat takes two big females, that can add up," Steichen said.

The potential regulation changes include increasing the minimum cobia size limit from 33 to 38 inches. The changes also include making the recreational and commercial bag limit the same and reducing that limit from six to two fish per vessel, per day.

"I think a smarter idea probably would be to set a slot limit, where you can keep them in between certain sizes and let the real big ones go, almost like we do with redfish," Steichen said.

"I think the commissioners are really hitting the mark with this right here... We should've said something a long time ago and really brought this to someones attention and we waited a little bit too long and we let it crash instead of maintaining it," Jones said.

However, many fishermen say they have hope the new regulations, if approved, will bring the cobia populations back.

The potential changes will be brought back before the commission in September for a final public hearing.