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Florida Sportswoman

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How to measure fish.

Most finfish size limit regulations of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) use either Fork Length or Total Length.

These measurement methods provide a consistent, well defined measurement technique. These methods encourage angler compliance with fishery management regulations.

Why aren't all fish measured with 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.

If you have further questions please contact the Division of Marine Fisheries Management at 850-487-0554.

Total Length Measurement

Total Length is now measured from the most forward point of the head, with the mouth closed, to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed, while the fish is lying on its side.

Total Length Species Include:
Snapper Family    
Grouper Family    
Red Drum    
Black Drum    
Several ornamentals
Spotted Seatrout    

Which method do  I apply to fresh water fish?

The Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management measures all regulated fish using a total length measurement with a squeezed tail.

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.

Fork Length Measurement

Fish regulated by fork length are measured from the tip of the jaw or tip of the snout with closed mouth to the center of the fork in the tail.

Fork  Length Species Include:
King Mackerel
Hog Fish    
Spanish Mackerel
African Pompano

Lower Jaw Fork Length Measurement

Fish regulated by lower jaw fork length are measured in a straight line from the anterior most part of the lower jaw (tip of the lower jaw) to the fork in the tail.

Stone Crab Measurement

Stone Crab claws must measure at least 2 3/4-inches in length measured by a straight line from the elbow to the tip of the lower immovable finger. The forearm (propodus) shall be deemed to be the largest section of the claw assembly that has both a moveable and immovable finger and is located farthest from the body of the crab.

Spiny Lobster Measurement

Spiny Lobster must have a minimum carapace length of greater than 3-inches and the measurement must take place in the water. The carapace is measured beginning at the forward edge between the rostral horns, excluding any soft tissue, and proceeding along the middle to the rear edge of the carapace.

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