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(News-Press.com) - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued 18 charges this week against anglers fishing in the Estero Bay area who are accused of harvesting undersized fish, clams and an undersized, out-of-season snook.

FWC did not respond to several News-Press requests for more information on the incident and charges. The agency did, however, find time to post photos of the fish and an account of the crimes on its Facebook page.

The photos show the undersized snook, several mangrove snapper and a sheepshead. Snook season has been closed for more than a week, and it's illegal to harvest clams in Lee County.

Apparently, the fishermen were wading, harvesting fish and clams and storing their catches in a floating cooler.

Snook are an especially prized game fish in South Florida. Strong fighters when hooked, snook sometimes leap into the air, and many anglers consider them the best table fare in the Sunshine State.

The economics surrounding snook are almost as important as the ecology as saltwater recreation fishing is a $7 billion industry. Anglers do target other species — tarpon, redfish, grouper — but snook are among the most popular inshore species.

Anglers with a license and snook stamp will be able to legally harvest fish measuring between 28 and 33 inches (measured with the tail pinched) starting Dec. 1 and ending the following February. Mangrove snapper and sheepshead must be at least 12 inches long.

Until then, it's catch-and-release only.

Snook facts

• Four species of snook are found in Florida: common, fat, swordfin and tarpon snook.

• Females can release more than a million eggs at a time on multiple occasions.

• The state record snook was caught in Fort Myers on April 25, 1984, by Robert De Cosmo and weighed 44 pounds, 3 ounces.

• Snook was sold as cat food prior to the 1950s and was sold at pennies a pound. Today it is illegal to sell or purchase snook.

• The first snook regulations in Florida came in the form of a seine net ban in 1947 in Lee County.

Fish kill reported at Lakes Park

Not all fish kills are necessarily bad, but any report of numerous dead fish is typically a cause for concern.

Lakes and ponds within Lake Regional Park in south Fort Myers have experienced fish kills since April, although apparently the only species affected by water conditions there is tilapia — a non-native species popular in the pet industry that is now part ofSouthwest Florida's aquatic ecology.

Warm weather, algal growth, bird dropping from rookeries and tilapia spawning season are possible causes, according to Lee County. The county is asking the public to not touch the dead fish. Swimming has not been allowed at the park since the 1990s because of water quality concerns.

— Compiled by Chad Gillis

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