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OKEECHOBEE SNOOK & TARPON?

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Capt. Brian Honnorlaw of Lake Okeechobee Outdoors guide service (facebook.com/lakeokeechobeeoutdoors/) boated this 30-plus-inch snook on the Kissimmee River at Lake Okeechobee.

The west side of Lake Okeechobee in Glades County, Florida is an overlooked jewel of south Florida for anglers. To begin with it has some of the best largemouth bass and crappie fishing in the world, both of which have gained a bit of notoriety.

But, one might ask what that has to do with saltwater fly fishing? One trait of snook, tarpon and even jack crevalle are the fish are quite uppity and don’t seem to know their place.

Although this region lies at least 60 miles from the nearest true saltwater, these three species of fish show up regularly in the waters of Glade County. Indeed, some of these fish are year-round residents.

The two areas most likely to produce the snook and tarpon are around the mouths of the Caloosahatchee and Kissimmee Rivers at the lake. The snook usually are in some of the deeper holes along the shore, while the tarpon can be found rolling on the surface. In the case of the jacks, look for them busting bait downstream of the locks at Lakeport on the Caloosahatchee River in the summer months.

For more information on Glades County, go to visitglades.org.

NEW RULES FOR SOUTH CAROLINA REDFISH

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South Carolina Department of Natural Resources article

Red drum, redfish, spottail, channel bass – South Carolina’s most popular saltwater gamefish goes by many names and plays a key role in the coastal economy and ecosystems.

In recent years, state biologists have documented a declining trend in the state’s red drum population, which has been underscored by reports from longtime local anglers. These concerns prompted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to take a closer look at the species last year, culminating in an assessment that found South Carolina’s red drum population was experiencing overfishing.

The South Carolina General Assembly responded by passing a new law intended to reverse overfishing, which Governor Henry McMaster recently signed. The new catch limit allows two fish per person per day and no more than six fish per boat per day, effective July 1, 2018. The previous catch limit was three fish per person per day, with no boat limit. The slot limit (15-23 inches) remains unchanged.

“We’ve been monitoring red drum populations across the state using the same techniques for nearly 30 years, and what we’ve seen over the last 10-15 years is concerning,” said assistant marine scientist Dr. Joey Ballenger, who oversees SCDNR’s red drum research. “Across the state, we’ve seen declines in abundance of the juvenile fish most commonly targeted by anglers.”

Research at SCDNR shows that poor reproductive years are not necessarily unusual for these long-lived species – Ballenger notes that large crops of red drum fish are only produced about twice a decade. However, Ballenger’s team has also discovered that not as many red drum are surviving from one year to the next as in previous generations. The reasons for this poor survival are unclear, but the impact has translated into fewer fish within the slot size limit, which is ultimately expected to mean fewer adult fish annually entering the spawning population.

 “Not only are we seeing declines in the annual crop of fish produced by adults, we are seeing that those produced are experiencing higher mortality rates,” Dr. Ballenger said. “Over time, this translates to fewer and fewer adult fish being around to produce the next crop, resulting in a feedback loop that continues the process.”

At the same time these ecological fluctuations have occurred, fishing pressure has increased in South Carolina, especially on large adult fish.

Adult red drum are already protected from harvest in South Carolina. Under current legislation, the fish are only legal to harvest when they fall between 15-23 inches in length – a size range that they reach for a little more than a year of their life.

As a result, the red drum fishery in South Carolina is defined by catch and release – 80 percent of red drum caught by anglers are released. But even under ideal conditions, studies estimate that 8 to 16 percent of caught-and-released fish die after release. Minimizing the death of released adult fish is critical to maintaining good fishing.

The red drum from South Carolina to Florida are managed as a single population, and the status of regional management is currently unclear. This left SCDNR staff with questions about the status of the species in South Carolina, given the declines seen in catch rates of young fish. The agency therefore initiated an assessment of red drum just in South Carolina to better understand the health of this important species in local waters.

The assessment determined that with a three fish per person per day bag limit, not enough red drum are surviving to sustain the population over the long-term.

The study also found that a modest shift in regulations – from three to two fish per person per day – would be enough, in time, to improve the number of fish recruiting into the adult population.

 

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SOUTHERN SALTWATER FLY FISHING MAGAZINE GOING BI-MONTHLY

The summer issue of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine that comes out in a couple of weeks will be the last quarterly edition readers will see. Beginning with the September/October magazine we will begin publishing on a bi-monthly schedule. Coupled with the increase from four to six destination articles that was instituted with the summer edition that means you will get more than double the stories in 2019. We look forward to bringing you more action and continuing to expand our coverage.

BAHAMIAN FISHING REGULATIONS SUSPENDED

April 23, 2018

As reported by Tribune 242

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The Government has suspended the flats fishing regulations after their “hasty crafting and poor implementation” was blamed for up to a 40 per cent fall in bonefish lodge bookings.

The Abaco Fly Fishing Association, in a statement yesterday, said the entire Bahamas was now “feeling the pinch” due to the significant loss of tourism revenue in the Family Islands.

It blamed the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations 2017, introduced by the former Christie administration, for causing a major decline in anglers visiting the Bahamas to bonefish. Lodge bookings, it added, had fallen by between 20 per cent to 40 per cent.

“The Out Islands of the southern Bahamas have been especially hard hit,” the Association said. “Bonefishing lodges on Andros and Long Island, as well as the US-based Bahamas booking agents, report declines in bookings of 20 to 40 per cent or more, which means guides and staff are not working as many hours this year and our taxi drivers are losing business. “Without the influx of operating capital by the foreign anglers being spread throughout the communities, houses are being left unfinished, medical care is put off, and plans are put on hold because of lack of income. The job of caring for one’s family and raising children has gotten harder because of the flats fishing regulations, as noted by one lodge owner on Andros.

“This is most alarming because the anglers are still flats fishing; they are just doing it in other places. Cuba, Belize, Mexico, Central America, Christmas Island and the Seychelles are the recipients of those tourist dollars now.”

The Association said the Minnis administration has now suspended enforcement of the regulations until their impact can be reviewed, as angler licenses have been extremely difficult to obtain and pay for.

The regulations require anglers over the age of 12, and those who wish to fish in the flats, to apply for a personal angler’s license and pay a set fee. Non-Bahamians will have to pay $15 for a daily license; $20 for a weekly license; $30 for a monthly license; and $60 for an annual license.

The regulations also require a foreign vessel wishing to fish in the Bahamian flats to obtain the usual sports fishing permit, with each person on the vessel also holding a personal license. The regulations ban commercial fishing in the flats, and anglers are only allowed to catch and release when catching bonefish, permit, snook, cobia and tarpon. A Conservation Fund for the management and protection of the flats and fisheries resources in the Bahamas is to be established.

The suspension was immediately slammed by PLP chairman Fred Mitchell as “an act of madness”, adding that the Opposition was “confounded” that the Government had “stripped away protection” for the fishing grounds and Bahamians.

Accusing the Government of “looking out for foreigners and not for Bahamians”, Mr Mitchell added: “The PLP put in place regulations which protected fly fishing for Bahamians, and maximum protection against pilferage by strangers coming into this country to pillage our fish stocks.

“All the patient work done by the Fisheries Department under the PLP has been scrapped, and now there is open season in our fishing flats.”

Describing the situation as “shameful”, Mr Mitchell said Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources, had failed to “stand up” for conservation and Bahamian bonefish guides while foregoing the revenue that will now be lost from licenses.

“The PLP pledges as soon as it returns to office to return the provisions and rules to protect Bahamian fishing stocks and the fly fishing sector for Bahamians,” he added.

When the proposed regulations for the industry were first unveiled, they created considerable controversy and effectively divided the 400 local guides and the lodge owners.

The latter were more opposed to the proposals, while there was concern that the regulations, as initially drafted, gave the impression that the Bahamas was being too protectionist, restrictive and anti-foreign, tying up access by foreign anglers in bureaucracy and red tape, not to mention increased costs.

“A flats fishing license with funds supporting conservation, education and enforcement is supported by 100 per cent of visiting anglers, guides and lodge owners. But the roll-out of the licensing process has been confusing and extremely difficult for anglers and lodge owners,” the Association said.

“With only a few days prior notice, licensing was put into effect in January 2017. Officials on Out Islands were scrambling to obtain the documents from central government to initiate licensing sales. Anglers were to buy the licenses at the Administrator’s Office. Administrators were busy, so they gave the licensing materials to the fisheries offices to sell, leaving anglers wandering around trying to find the proper offices in which to buy the license.

“To complicate matters for the angling visitors, who would naturally surmise that a fishing license would be sold by the Department of Marine Resources, after a few weeks, fishery offices were told to stop selling licenses and only administrators were authorised to do so.”

The Association added: “There is a license application available for download on the Government’s website. But there is no way to actually buy the license online. The application must be filled out, printed, signed by the angler and then presented to the island administrator’s office for issuance when they arrive at their fishing destination.

“The website also advises that the turnaround time is one day, and that opening hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays. Most tourists travel Saturday to Saturday.

“The Government must stop the bleeding of our tourism dollars to other countries and bring our flats fishing tourists back to the Bahamas by enacting sensible flats fishing regulations that welcome visitors. Prime Minister Minnis should return the flats fishing tourism portfolio to the Ministry of Tourism, who did a much better job of welcoming angling tourists to our islands before the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s ideas led to the decline of angling tourism.”

ISLAMORADA TO HOST HISTORIC LADIES TARPON FLY TOURNAMENT

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Women who love the sport of saltwater fly-fishing in the shallow waters of Islamorada and Florida Bay are naturally attracted to the rich history of the Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament. Its 41st annual edition is set for Monday through Thursday, June 11-14. 

Since 1977, an elite group of women anglers have come from all over the world to fish for tarpon in this all-release fly-fishing invitational during the species’ famously unique migration.  

A few spots remain to be filled in the iconic 2018 fishing challenge.

“This is a competition that connects women in the sport, forms new friendships and creates lasting memories, all while pursuing one of the world's greatest fighting fish — the silver king,” said longtime tournament organizer Heidi Nute, a well-documented record-holding angler herself. 

Tournament participants range from expert to novice, those whose favorite species is tarpon and ladies endeavoring to improve fly-fishing skills. 

A kick-off event is set the evening of June 11 at Green Turtle Inn, mile marker (MM) 81. Fishing June 12-14 commences after daily breakfast at the Lorelei Restaurant, MM 82 bayside.

Awards are to be given Thursday evening, June 14, at the Islamorada Fishing Club, also located at MM 82 bayside, in various categories including Grand Champion and Best New Angler. Awards consist of works by notable wildlife artists, fishing tackle and accessories, as well as travel packages to fishing and hunting destinations. 

The entry fee of $850 includes a gear-filled gift bag valued at $500, admission to the kick-off event, daily breakfast, hors d’oeuvres, social events and the awards dinner for angler and guide. The angler is responsible for paying her guide.

For more details contact facebook.com/keystarpon or heidinute@yahoo.com.

MISSISSPPI COAST FLY FISHERS GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI

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We are a group of fly fishers who share an interest in fly fishing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and nearby areas. Our members fish both fresh and saltwater for everything from bream to trout. Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers is affiliated with the Fly Fishers International and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

Meetings are held at 7:00 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month except December (we have a meeting the first Thursday only). We normally have a guest speaker or some other activity. Fly Casting Sessions are held during daylight saving time starting at 6:30 p.m. before each meeting.

For more details visit gcflyfishers.org.

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MORE COVERAGE IN SOUTHERN SALTWATER FLY FISHING MAGAZINE

With the release of the summer edition of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine, readers will see the first of several coming changes – all of which are for the better. We are expanding from our present format of four destination features in each issue to six, which provides the opportunity for us to bring you more fishing, in more places, from more of the best writers in our coverage range.

Stay tuned for more improvements in the near future as well.

NEW BOOK FROM CAPT. JOHN KUMISKI

Capt. John Kumiski is a veteran fly-fishing guide in the Indian River waters of east Florida. He also is an accomplished freelance writer and contributor to Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine.

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The Indian River Lagoon Chronicles - A Narrative Paddle Adventure Through the History and Natural History of the Indian River Lagoon, an exciting new book by John Kumiski, delves into the fascinating lore and natural history of the Indian River Lagoon.

On December 1, 2013, five intrepid paddlers launched their vessels at JB's Fish Camp in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Their destination was Jupiter, Florida, 160 miles distant. During the 19 day voyage of discovery, they travel the length of the Indian River Lagoon, meeting birds, snails, manatees, mangroves, dolphins, scientists, restaurateurs, seagrasses, other paddlers, the ghost of Henry Flagler, and much more. 

Into the tale of their journey is woven the forgotten history of the people who lived along the lagoon's banks - Indians, soldiers, settlers, agriculturalists, fishermen, treasure hunters, entrepreneurs, dredgers and many others. 

"The story of the Indian River Lagoon, one of Florida's most fantastic natural resources, needed to be told," the author explained. "What better way to tell it than by using a paddle adventure as a narrative thread to bind it all together?"  

The Indian River Lagoon Chronicles - A Narrative Paddle Adventure Through the History and Natural History of the Indian River Lagoon, by John Kumiski, (6 inches x 9 inches, 192 pages) is available from Argonaut Publishing Company, 284 Clearview Road, Chuluota, FL 32766, (407) 977-5207, spottedtail.com/indian-river-lagoon-chronicles. The price is $19.95, plus tax and $5.95 shipping. 

BAHAMAS ANGLER CATCHES BONEFISH TAGGED BY BONEFISH & TARPON TRUST

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Is there anything more exhilarating than scrambling to recover line that’s buzzing off your reel, then landing a well-deserved bonefish? Believe it or not, there is: landing that bonefish and finding it has been tagged. Not only are you having the time of your life; you’re contributing to BTT's ongoing bonefish research. Take it from renowned angler Meredith McCord, who recently caught a tagged bonefish off of South Andros while fishing with the Eleven Experience. 

Many are familiar with the term “tagging” due to projects like the Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project, but BTT and collaborating scientists employ more than one type of “tag” when studying saltwater flats species. Research involving acoustic telemetry help us identify movement patterns and spawning sites, in addition to regional population and habitat connections that inform flats conservation. These acoustic tags do not, however, track health indicators like growth rate and sexual maturity—those data are found using something called tag-recapture.

This particular type of tag resembles a small post with a diameter similar to that of a toothpick’s. Each individual tag is marked with a unique serial number and is inserted just below the dorsal fin. Scientists record the tag’s serial number and measurements specific to the individual fish—weight, fork and tail length, gender and any other observations about its condition. In keeping with best handling practices, researchers release the fish in hopes of another encounter.

That hope was recently fulfilled when Meredith McCord caught a tagged bonefish in the Bahamas. She was able to record its serial number and length measurements before releasing it again.

According to Dr. Aaron Adams, BTT’s Director of Science & Conservation, and Bahamas Initiative Manager Justin Lewis, bonefish spawn during full and new moons from October through April. The bonefish Meredith helped recapture was first tagged at a pre-spawning aggregation site in January 2015. Its recapture, over three years later, occurred only 34 miles from the initial tagging location—not uncommon, since bonefish typically remain in or near their home ranges except for when they leave the flats to spawn in deeper water.

MARYLAND TROPHY STRIPER SEASON STARTS APRIL 21

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announces the 2018 Spring Trophy Striped Bass season begins at 5 a.m. April 21 in Maryland’s portions of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.

The fishing season will continue through midnight May 15, with a catch limit of one fish daily with a size limit of 35 inches or larger.

“The beginning of trophy rockfish season generates a lot of excitement for anglers,” Fishing and Boating Director David Blazer said. “All fishing provides fun and challenges, but there’s something about trying to make that trophy catch of a striped bass that stands out from other experiences.”

Starting May 16, fishing locations and daily creel limits will expand through May 31. Beginning June 1, the entire Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries will be open for the summer and fall season, which ends Dec. 20. 

The department is advancing emergency regulations that would reduce the minimum size of striped bass for charter boat and recreational anglers in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries from 20 to 19 inches. These regulations would not affect the spring season.

Striped bass fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and Maryland’s coastal bays and tributaries is open year-round with a two-fish daily limit. Stripers on the coast must be between 28 and 38 inches or larger than 44 inches.

IGFA RELEASES 2018 WORLD RECORD GAME FISHES PUBLICATION

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All the facts and figures behind recreational angling’s most amazing catches are now available in the 2018 edition of IGFA World Record Game Fishes published by The International Game Fish Association.

The IGFA World Record Game Fishes is the world’s definitive publication of recreational angling records. The 2018 edition includes comprehensive information on all freshwater, saltwater and fly-fishing world records for all-tackle, line classes and length-based catch and release records, including new world records set in the last year. 

 “We’re excited to fulfill our longstanding role as the angling world record keeper through the release of our iconic annual publication,” said IGFA President Nehl Horton. “Angler recognition, game fish conservation and education are the cornerstones of our association. With the latest edition of IGFA World Record Game Fishes, we aim to inform, educate and inspire those who are interested in our sport by celebrating the achievements of anglers around the globe.”

The 2018 edition is also available online as a digital magazine, providing IGFA members with access to the entire list of IGFA records and valuable content about freshwater and saltwater fishing techniques, personalities and conservation topics.

Since 1939, the IGFA has set international angling rules and maintained world records for saltwater game fish. In 1978, its global rules and record-keeping mandate expanded to include freshwater species and fly fishing records when Field & Stream magazine, the Salt Water Fly Rodders of America and the International Spin Fish Association turned over their record-keeping responsibilities. In 1979, the IGFA first published freshwater, saltwater and fly-fishing records together in its iconic annual world record book.

The 2018 world record book also includes information on IGFA member clubs, captains, weigh stations and discount programs designed to help recreational anglers connect with each other and access a wealth of relevant and timely information.

As part of their membership, IGFA Lifetime and Corporate members receive a printed copy of the annual 2018 IGFA World Record Game Fishes as a valued keepsake and easy offline reference resource. The publication is available for purchase through the IGFA’s online store and IGFA Premium members are sent a promotional code for purchasing books at a discounted rate. To purchase the world record book simply visit igfa.com.

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February 15, 2018

NEW FLY SHOP ON THE GEORGIA COAST

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On The Fly Outfitters is a new fly shop that has opened in Brunswick, Georgia. Owners Jared DiVincent and Adam Hein have now been open for business since November of 2017. They recently participated in their first First Friday event in downtown Brunswick and drew a big crowd. The store is located at 1501 Newcastle Street, Brunswick, Georgia 31520. Drop by when you are in the area or check them out on Facebook at facebook.com/ontheflyoutfitters.

 

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The First Friday Event at On The Fly Outfitters.

Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club Meet & Greet

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The Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club is hosting their 4th official Meet & Greet on March 3, 2018. This is their flagship event that has gotten bigger and better every time. The activities take place at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin. A family friendly round of activities are planned, along with their biggest raffle ever. Vendors will be on site representing many local companies from the fishing industry. Food will be provided by Tampa Food Trucks, offering a variety of food options.

Anyone interested in sponsoring or vending can contact the club via e-mail at tampabayfishingclub@outlook.com.

Bonefish Successfully Spawned in Captivity

The Bonefish Restoration Research Project (BRRP), a major initiative sponsored by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, has successfully induced spawning of wild bonefish and hatched the fertilized eggs into larvae. This is a first for this species, and a major step in the organization’s efforts to spawn and raise bonefish in captivity. 

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The project, which is based at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, achieved this milestone during field experiments in January in the Bahamas. A team led by Dr. Jon Shenker of the Florida Institute of Technology and Dr. Paul Wills of FAU-HBOI successfully used reproductive hormone injections to induce final mature eggs in a female that had been captured from the wild in a pre-spawning state of development. The female was stripped spawn and the eggs fertilized by a stripped spawned male, which resulted approximately 24 hours later in live bonefish larvae.

“We now know that we can indeed get bonefish to spawn in captivity,” said Dr. Shenker. “This success will help us optimize methods to induce spawning of fish brought in from the natural habitat, and to spawn fish maintained for a long time in a controlled aquaculture facility. Our newly-hatched larvae will also enable us to start learning how to culture these very unusual leptocephalus (“slender head”) larvae.”

“Observations of development and behavior of bonefish larvae will also indicate critical habitat and larval drift characteristics needed for refining oceanic models of larval dispersal that other Bonefish & Tarpon Trust research has developed,” added Dr. Paul Wills. “We are gaining a wealth of information about the biology of this species from this one successful spawn and future spawns will only yield more.”

Through BRRP, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, in collaboration with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is seeking to pioneer the methods of spawning and rearing bonefish in captivity as a means of providing fish to replenish the Florida Keys bonefish population as part of the broader restoration strategy. The primary goals of the five-year-long program, which began in mid-2016, are to learn how to spawn bonefish in aquaculture systems, rear the resulting larvae and juvenile fish, and ultimately help habitat restoration efforts in the Keys ecosystem.

Bonefish are integral to Florida’s travel and tourism industry. It is estimated that bonefish, tarpon and other species in the ‘flats fishery’ contribute more than $465 million to the economy in the Florida Keys.

“This is a great step forward in our research and development of methods to rear bonefish in captivity,” said BTT President Jim McDuffie. “Our team was able to produce eggs and larvae from wild bonefish that had not gone through the species’ usual spawning behaviors in the wild. Ultimately, success in this project will give us another tool in our toolbox as we work to restore the bonefish population in the Florida Keys.”

Comprehensive Oyster Restoration Plan Announced in Maryland

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources today announced a comprehensive plan on oyster restoration, including its intention to recommend Breton Bay and the upper St. Mary's River as the fourth and fifth tributaries to satisfy the state's commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal of restoring native oyster habitat and populations in five tributaries by 2025.

The department's selection complements ongoing large-scale oyster restoration activities in Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River and the Tred Avon River.

"Maryland is committed to restoring the oyster population throughout the Chesapeake Bay for both ecological and economic reasons," Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. "This keystone species builds the foundation of a healthy marine ecosystem, cleaning and filtering water, while also serving as the backbone of our fisheries-based economy, be it aquaculture or commercial harvesting."

The recommendations will be shared with the Maryland Oyster Restoration Interagency Workgroup, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The department will also gather input from citizens, communities and stakeholders in an open and transparent public comment process.

Breton Bay intends to be restored with the assistance of the state's federal partners while work in the upper section of the St. Mary's River would be conducted by the state. All contracts for seed planting and substrate placement in the final two restoration sites will be competitively bid.

"These restoration recommendations strike the right balance between the environment and the economy by concentrating limited yet targeted resources on existing sanctuaries with the most potential for success, based on the best available science," Belton said. "These two sites have the broad support of environmentalists and riverkeepers as well as county leaders and watermen."

Along with its restoration selections, the state also plans to study and survey existing state oyster sanctuaries around Annapolis and the Lower Eastern Shore. For the first time, the department will design and develop oyster management plans for the Manokin, Nanticoke and Severn rivers to determine how the strategic use of state investment and resources, including seed, shell and spat, could spur natural oyster growth and reproduction.

Lastly, the department intends to move forward with developing a rotational harvest system, designating a seed study area, and renewing the state's oyster shell collection and recycling programs.

The state's oyster restoration plan was formed, in part, from feedback from the Oyster Advisory Commission, which includes academics, conservationists, legislators and watermen.