With temperatures dropping, can you handle the fish?

By Jill Christoferson, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fisherman with troutWhile many sing the praises of Florida’s warmer fishing months, seasoned anglers know that winter can offer great fishing opportunities for some of the state’s most sought-after species. As the temperatures drop, you’ll spot many anglers following spotted seatrout to fresher water, where the fish congregate in large schools.

While this can make spotted seatrout an easy target, this species is also especially vulnerable to fatigue and exposure. So as the winter bite turns on, it’s important to use proper gear and fish-handling techniques. This ensures the best chance of survival for released fish. Read on for some tips to help you handle the fishing as the weather cools down and the action heats up.


  • Barbless circle hooks — These are 90% more likely to hook a fish in the mouth, which reduces internal harm. They also decrease dehooking time, getting the fish back in the water faster and increasing its chance of survival.
  • Dehooking tool — This tool allows anglers to quickly release their catch while minimizing fish injuries and handling time.
  • Correct weight tackle — Using tackle heavy enough to land a fish quickly is important because the fish will be less exhausted and more able to avoid predators upon release.
  • Knotless, rubber-coated net — These nets support the weight of the fish and remove a minimal amount of the slime that protects the fish from infection.


  • Avoid removing large fish from the water. If you must remove them, support their weight horizontally to prevent damage to their internal organs.
  • Take pictures of your catch while it is in the water. This puts less stress on the fish, and the fish will look bigger.
  • If a net is needed to land or control a fish, always use a knotless, rubber-coated landing net.