Florida Freshwater Fisheries open for business

For 30 years, I've had the opportunity, challenge and pleasure of working with some great fisheries biologists and a cadre of supporting scientists, technicians and staff dedicated to conserving Florida's unique fisheries resources while providing quality recreational fishing. Mostly unbeknownst to the angling public, the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, first within the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC) and more recently in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has had a stellar series of division directors guiding the way.

The first trained fisheries biologist, and subsequently the first division director, was Jack Dequine, who was hired in 1943. Jack is still an active member of the Florida Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

A true Southern gentleman, Jerry Banks, was at the helm when I was hired in 1979. He passed the torch to Smokie Holcomb. Smokie was known for his hands-on knowledge of fisheries and helping pioneer lake restoration work as well as having a compassionate understanding of anglers' needs.

Around 1996, Jerry Shireman took over from Smokie. He brought his experience as leader of the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences program at the University of Florida to state government. In 2000, Ed Moyer, became fisheries director. Among Ed's notable accomplishments was opening of the state-of-the-art Florida Bass Conservation Center. He was here when the residents of Florida overwhelmingly voted to merge the GFC, Marine Fisheries Commission and elements of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) related to marine fisheries into a new constitutionally authorized FWC.

In 2004, the FWC realigned and redistributed the resources and programs that were first brought together when the FWC was created. Part of that initiative resulted in the Division of Fisheries, which previously included its own research, habitat restoration and boating access staff totaling 170 employees reorganizing into a streamlined force of 69 employees focused on direct fisheries management and hatchery production. Other employees were mostly moved into the new Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, the Florida Wildlife Research Institute, or Office of Boating and Waterways. As the first director of the new Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, Darrell Scovell brought a wealth of experience to the new challenges.

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