Clarification was approved for the definition of Total Length at the December 2005
Commission meeting. The rule is effective July 1, 2006.
Why did we make this change?
Previously, FWC rules did not consistently state how to obtain total length, leaving this
measurement open to interpretation by anglers and law enforcement officers. This
modification should provide ease of measurement for anglers and ease of enforcement
of size limits. Anglers have also asked for consistency between marine fish and
freshwater fish measurements as well as with the federal definition for total length. Better
compliance with our regulations should result because visiting anglers from nearby
states are currently instructed to measure total length by squeezing the tail in their home
states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. Thus, this
method is already familiar to them, and this could foster compliance with our regulations
by out-of-state anglers. Also, many Florida saltwater anglers had already been
measuring total length with a pinched tail, thus for these people there will be no change
What species will be affected by the change?
Only species that are currently measured as total length will be affected. Species
measured as fork length will not be affected.
Why did we change gray triggerfish to fork length?
Federal rules currently state that gray triggerfish should be measured as total length.
However, their definition of total length specifies that tail filaments should be excluded,
which is essentially a fork length measurement. Anglers often include the tail filaments in
the measurement of total length for gray triggerfish, which is allowing them to harvest fish
that are below the intended 12-inch size limit. Changing the measurement of gray
triggerfish to fork length will also allow gray triggerfish to be measured similarly to
hogfish, which are currently measured as fork length and have similar tail filament types.
How do I measure fish that have ragged-edge type tail filaments, such as scamp,
yellowmouth grouper, or black sea bass?
For fish that have “ragged-edge” type filaments, these “pieces” of the tail should be
included in the measurement of total length, which is implied by stating that the fish be
measured to the “farthest tip of the tail” in the definition for total length.
Is there a change to sheepshead measurement?
Sheepshead and flounder are included in the same rule (68B-48, Florida Administrative
Code). This rule lists a size limit of 12 inches total length for sheepshead and flounder.
However, “length” was previously defined as “from the most forward point of the head to
the rear center edge of the tail”. This was a total length measure for flounder since they
have a convex tail, but this was a fork length measurement for sheepshead since they
have a slightly forked tail. However, the rule stated that sheepshead should be measured
as total length. This inconsistency was part of the reason we needed to modify our rules.
Thus, under the new definition sheepshead should be measured as total length with a
What effect will this clarification have on fish stocks?
For species (measured as total length) with a flat or rounded tail (red drum, spotted
seatrout, and tripletail) there will be little change since minimal length is gained by
squeezing the tail on those species. For species with a concave or “forked” tail
(measured as total length) the new interpretation will only have a small impact, but the
overall effect on the stock will be negligable. Also, the new interpretation will only affect
anglers who had been interpreting total length to mean total length-relaxed (unsqueezed
What effect will this clarification have on snook stocks?
If you were not squeezing the tail before, there is approximately a 0.77 inch difference
between a relaxed tail and a squeezed tail. However, because of the variation in size-at-
age, squeezing the tail will have a small effect on the overall snook stock. Due to public
concern about the status of snook stocks, the FWC voted at its June 2006 Commission
meeting to shift the snook slot from 26 - 34 inches to 27 - 34 inches in order to negate any
potential negative effects on snook stocks. This shift will result in a 22% harvest
reduction on the Gulf coast and a 12% reduction on the Atlantic coast according to the
most recent snook stock assessment. The change is predicted to result in an increase
in spawning potential ratio (SPR) by 7% on the Gulf coast and 5% on the Atlantic coast.
Should you pinch the tail at both ends of the slot for fish that have a slot limit?
Does this change apply to freshwater fish also?
The Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management measures all regulated fish using a
total length measurement with a squeezed tail.
History of Finfish Measurement in Florida
The State of Florida has wrestled with how to measure saltwater finfish since 1925. In
1925 the Legislature first enacted length measurements for marine finfish. Many different
methods have been used over the years (1925-1973) including: tip of nose to fork of tail,
tip of nose to tip of tail, tip of nose to end of tail, and tip of nose to rear center edge of tail.
At any one time, one or all of these definitions were used. In the late 1980s both a total
length and a fork length size limit were listed in rule for some species. By the mid 1990s,
only one measure was chosen for most species primarily based on the way federal
regulations specified how the species should be measured.
Why Aren’t all Fish Measured by a Single Method?
At the present time most of the regulated species in Florida are measured by either a total
length or fork length method. The method chosen depends on the shape of the tail and
primarily on the consistency with federal regulations. Consistency with federal
regulations is very important for the enforcement of state and federal size limits.
|Length Measurement FAQ'S
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