General Saltwater Fishing Regulations

A good example of when saltwater fishing regulations should have been used but were not is the country of Panama. The word “Panama” is reputed to be an ancient Indian word meaning “abundant fishes”. And, for a long time that was true. Up through the 1960′s and early 1970′s, a fisherman could go just a few miles offshore and be almost guaranteed of bringing home a billfish. But due to no conservation measures, no licensing requirements, and no prudence by charter boat captains, the Panama Gulf has become over fished and a potential long term commercial tourism opportunity has been squandered.

Contrast this to Costa Rica which has a rich history of wildlife conservation. They have considered the future and incorporated it into their day to day tourism industry. As a consequence, their fishing and tourist draw is assured long into the future. It takes a wise and prudent government and society not to sacrifice long term gain to the short term paycheck. Perhaps this is one benchmark of a mature and responsible society.

Stewardship for the future is what saltwater fishing regulations and licensing address. Unlike other types of licenses, saltwater fishing licenses and regulations are instrumental in not only being a forward thinking tool but in conserving the local fish population as well. If poachers are allowed to operate, say in the case of red fish or red snapper, the entire species will suffer a decline and the species balance will go way out of whack. The rules may seem unimportant but in the long run, they are the tools to the long term success of any sport fishing genre.

So what does this mean to you, the saltwater sports fisherman? First and foremost, comply with the local requirements regarding bag limits. Stay informed of any changes that your state/area has made. Use “catch and release” if that is your philosophy. If you are fishing in a foreign country, do you really need that trophy mount for a fish you won’t eat? Think about your vanity index. That is what cameras are for.

Many countries which are popular tourist fishing destinations do not have adequate saltwater fishing regulations due to either sorry government structuring or simply the belief and understanding that the lack of regulations will encourage the practice of overfishing. Unfortunately, this is a correct although shortsighted goal. Game fish simply do not reproduce at the same rate as the people that seek trophies. In any responsible and forward looking society, each of these has to balance out the other for long term survival.
The bottom line is this: game fishing is a very cool pastime. It is one of the oldest and has remained one of the most modern types of outdoor activities. But you must keep in mind that in taking on the role of hunter you take on certain roles of responsibility as well. The rules of saltwater fishing are there to ensure that you can have prey to chase tomorrow… so have fun but obey!

To get the full “General Saltwater Fishing Regulations” article you’ll need to download it here.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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