CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - A certain kind of fishing net is casting controversy and confusion in Southwest Florida. Gill nets have been banned in most areas around the state for two decades.
They're back in the spotlight and prompting local law enforcement to remind fisherman they're still illegal.
"Pretty much, it's capture and kill so you do get a few fish that survive it but the beauty of a gill net if you're a commercial fisherman is very little gets away," says Frank Hommema.
Fishin' Frank has been in this business for decades. He says the difference between a gill net and a legal net, is the size of the diamond.
"A gill net has about a 4 inch stretch on it. the fish's head gets inside, the gills come out and they can't get back out, they're stuck," he says.
Which means a much larger catch in less time.
"A lot of these guys get 8 to ten thousand pound a day with a (legal) net. Can you imagine how much they can get with a gill net? You're talking 20, 30 thousand pounds," he adds.
The use of gill nets have been illegal for two decades. But just last month, a circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled that banning them in parts of the panhandle was unfair and it should not be enforced. Debbie Bowe with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office says, the announcement is confusing to fishermen in Southwest Florida waters.
"It's not effective for the Charlotte County area... what has taken place in the second circuit, that's one circuit out of 20," she says.
Gill nets are still illegal in Charlotte County waters and deputies will continue to enforce the ban.
"Whether we agreed with the law or not, it's still the law," she says.
Folks with FWC could not comment on the issue because it's in the midst of litigation, but they remind fishermen that they have all the information what gear is legal on the water posted on their website.