ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has voted to approve staff recommendations for new rules for fishermen on the Skyway Fishing Pier.

The rules come after hundreds of bird injuries, and a monthslong process of public input.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) approved new regulations for fishing at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

  • More than 52 people lined up to speak during Wednesday's meeting

  • Among proposals: angler education and hook and line limitations

FWC proposed the following new regulations:

  • Establish an annual education requirement for anglers
  • Prohibit the use of hook and line gear with more than one hook (e.g., sabiki rig, chicken rig, topwater plug) or any multiple hook (e.g., treble hook) from Nov. 15 through March 15 each year
  • Limit anglers to using no more than two sets of hook and line fishing gear, and
  • Review these regulations two years after implementation. Staff would monitor the effectiveness of these rules and report back to the Commission to inform any potential action two years after implementation.

In addition, FWC provides grant funding for safety equipment to be installed along the Skyway fishing pier that anglers can use in the event they hook or entangle a bird in fishing line.

“There’s a lot of fishing opportunity in Florida, but there is very limited opportunity around pelicans and that’s how I view this," said FWC chairman Rodney Barreto.

The Seaside Sea Bird Sanctuary treats a majority of the birds injured at the Skyway fishing pier.

In 2020, Melissa Edwards, the Avian Hospital Director, says it treated more than 600 brown pelicans, the majority of them injured at or near Skyway.

“This guy here, he had a line around the left leg that was tightly constricted and he also had a hook in the right wing,” said Edwards.

Fisherman Louis Lalumiere said he was fine with the change.

“It’s good rules for the birds. I got no problem with that,” he said.

But while everyone wants to keep the birds safe, some aren’t ready to give up their equipment.

ChiChi Cross, the cofounder of Skyway Misfits, says using a sabiki is the only way she and her 11-year-old autistic daughter Alliana can fish. She called the new rules biased.

“I can’t throw a cast net. Neither can my daughter,” she said.

She hopes something be done so her daughter can use the flasher rig year-round.

The Seaside Sea Bird Sanctuary worked closely with FWC to draft the new regulations, and says they will help lower the number of injured or killed birds.

"I think it strikes a great compromise between what we are trying to accomplish and not trying to interfere too much with the fishers that enjoy our fishing at the pier,” Edwards said. "You know, it's such a great area to go fishing. We don't want to impede too much, but you have to keep the birds in mind, too.”

The rules will be in effect for two years.