Billfish and Atlantic Tunas

Federal Permit Requirements

A Federal Highly Migratory Species Permit is mandatory for anglers targeting billfish and Atlantic tunas. This permit ensures that fishing activities are regulated and monitored to protect these highly migratory species.

Billfish Catch and Release

Billfish, a prestigious group of game fish, are subject to strict catch and release guidelines:

  • Billfish not kept must be released without being removed from the water, minimizing harm and stress to the fish.
  • All recreational catches of Atlantic billfish landed must be reported to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) within 24 hours. Reporting can be done via phone at 1-800-894-5528 or online at HMS Permits.
  • The sale of recreationally caught billfish is strictly prohibited, emphasizing the sport's conservation ethos.

Billfish Regulations Summary

  • Blue Marlin: Must measure at least 99 inches in fork length (FL) from the lower jaw, and can only be caught using rod and reel.
  • White Marlin and Sailfish: Have minimum size limits of 66 inches and 63 inches FL from the lower jaw, respectively, with rod and reel as the only permitted fishing methods.
  • Swordfish: Restricted to a daily limit of 1 per person, not exceeding 4 per vessel per trip, with a minimum size of 47 inches FL from the lower jaw. Both rod and reel and handlines are allowed, with handlines needing to remain in contact with the vessel.
  • Roundscale Spearfish: Also must meet a minimum size of 66 inches FL from the lower jaw and caught only by rod and reel.
  • Longbill Spearfish: Catch and possession are prohibited, requiring immediate release if caught.

Atlantic Tunas Fishing

For Atlantic tunas, the permit is a prerequisite with the exception of certain species classified under "Other Tunas." Regulations for tunas vary significantly by species:

  • Albacore and Skipjack Tuna: No specific regulations, allowing for more flexible fishing opportunities.
  • Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna: Both have a minimum size requirement of 27 inches curved fork length (CFL), with Yellowfin Tuna also having a bag limit of 3 per person per trip.
  • Bluefin Tuna: Subject to variable daily retention limits based on ongoing assessments. Anglers are encouraged to consult the NOAA Fisheries bulletin for the latest limits before fishing.
  • Other Tunas (Blackfin, Bonita, Little Tunny): No associated regulations, offering a broader scope for recreational fishing.

Reporting Requirements

The mandatory reporting of all recreationally caught Atlantic billfish and Bluefin tuna to NMFS within 24 hours of landing underscores the importance of data collection for the management and conservation of these species.

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