The Gulf covers most of Florida’s west coast, from Pensacola in the Panhandle to the start of the Everglades at the tip of the peninsula. This is important to keep in mind as there are different regulations for what’s in season and what you can harvest depending on if you’re in state or federal waters.
For counties of Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson (in the Panhandle area from Apalachicola to Steinhatchee) there is open season in state waters from April 1 to June 30, and again from September 1 to December 31. Black, Red, Scamp, Yellow fin and Yellow mouth Grouper all have similar regulations in the Gulf.
It’s open season in both state and federal waters for Rock Hind, Coney, Yellow edge and Snowy Groupers. You can ask your charter captain if the size you have is a keeper or not; or refer to the FCC regulations to make sure you’re staying compliant.
Now moving east to the beautiful Atlantic Ocean where there are excellent opportunities for grouper fishing. Keep in mind, the FCC considers the Everglades and Florida Keys as part of the Atlantic Ocean waters, and all fishing done in these areas must stay within Atlantic-specific regulations.
From the Florida Keys to Jacksonville, anglers have hundreds of cities to choose from to launch your grouper expedition. The real question is, what subspecies of grouper you’ll find at the end of your line.
East Coast anglers should mark your calendars for May 1, this is when Grouper and Black Grouper season opens from the Keys to Duval County (Jacksonville area). The season runs until December 31, and each angler can collect one or the other each trip within the 3 grouper aggregate.
In the Atlantic and state waters of Monroe County, the grouper closure ends April 30, and harvest will reopen May 1. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would like to gain a better understanding of what’s happening on the water.
All anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish from a private vessel are required to obtain the State Reef Fish Angler designation. Those with a Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation will meet the statewide requirement until the Gulf designation expires, even if you are fishing on the Atlantic coast.
State: Must have heads and fins intact through landing Gear rules require circle hooks and hooking tools in Gulf waters reef fish fisheries.
Note: In the Atlantic reef fish fishery, gear rules require hooking tools, and as of Jan. 1, 2021, non-stainless steel hooks in all state waters, and non-offset circle hooks N. of 28 ° N. latitude. Several species of Gulf grouper (red, black, scamp, yellow fin and yellow mouth) are closed Feb. 1-March 31 seaward of the 20-fathom break.
Recreational anglers are encouraged to use electronic charting equipment to plot the 20-fathom break by entering the established coordinates listed on the map below into a route. Monroe County: Several species of Atlantic grouper (red, black, yellow fin, yellow mouth, scamp, rock hind, red hind, Coney and grays by) are closed Jan. 1 – April 30 in all state and federal waters of the Atlantic including all state waters off Monroe County (Atlantic and Gulf sides).
During this closure, anglers can harvest grouper in open federal waters of the Gulf and return to port in Monroe County by traveling through closed state waters of the Atlantic as long as the vessel proceeds directly to port without stopping to fish. Western boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region.
Eastern boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region. This big gag was caught on a recent 39-hour trip aboard a party boat out of Hubbard’s Marina.
The gag grouper recreational season in Gulf state waters off Franklin, Weibull, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open for harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. For gag grouper, state waters off Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson counties will reopen to harvest April 1 through June 30 and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
Gag grouper will close to recreational harvest in Gulf state and federal waters Jan. 1, 2021. For gag grouper, state waters off Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson counties will reopen to harvest April 1 through June 30 and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
In the Atlantic and state waters of Monroe County, the grouper closure ends April 30, and harvest will reopen May 1. 1 At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, silver trout, sleepyhead, bonnet head sharks and a few mangrove snapper were caught over the weekend.
Sleepyhead are also biting around the pilings, reports Big Pier 60 Bait & Tackle (727-462-6466). 2 At Madeira Beach, the nearshore dogfish bite is very good in water 30- to 80-feet deep.
Black fin tuna numbers are increasing past 110 feet for the pelagic anglers, reports Capt. 4 At Fort De Soto Park, sleepyhead are thick at the marina and the bridge.
Whiting, silver trout and some pompano are biting in Ounces Pass, reports Capt. Free lined pinkish over shallow structure and the reefs have been producing fish in the 25- to 30-inch range, reports Capt.
The gag grouper bite remains strong around the rock piles and ledges in the 14 to 25-foot range and also deeper along the shipping channel. Some docks are holding redfish along with the occasional flounder, reports Crawford.
The pompano bite has been very good around Terra Can and Anna Maria Sound, reports Hunter. 7 At St. Petersburg, gag grouper are biting along the shipping channel from Port Manatee to the Skyway and on the artificial reefs in the bay.
Pinellas Point is good for trout on the deeper grass flats and cuts. Redfish and sleepyhead are biting on the oyster bars and around the docks and canals.
Weldon Island is still holding some shook and good numbers of redfish, trout and sleepyhead, reports Mastery’s Tackle (727-896-8889). 8 In the north end of Tampa Bay, sleepyhead have moved in thick on most structure, the reefs and around the bridges.
A few redfish are biting around the Andy and Weldon Island area, but there’s better numbers in the upper bay. Some cobias is biting around the markers and areas with warm water runoff, reports Andy Bait & Tackle (813-839-5551).
Fresh dead or live shrimp are the best bait and if the grass porgies starting biting, it's time to move to a new spot, reports Capt. • At Fort Pierce, the offshore bottom bite at 80 feet is steady for lane snapper with a few buttons and mangroves mixed in.
Spanish mackerel are biting in 30 feet of water to the north around the Very Cove. Sleepyhead, black drum and sand perch are active inside the inlet and around the bridges, reports Clint Walker at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637).