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 Gag Grouper fishing in the Gulf, it’s important to note what county you’re embarking from. 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. If you’re lucky enough to catch a GoliathGrouper or Nassau Grouper, take a quick picture and release it back to the wild.
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. East Coast anglers should mark your calendars for May 1, this is when Gag Grouper and Black Grouper season opens from the Keys to Duval County (Jacksonville area).
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. Gulf state waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles.
Atlantic state waters are from shore to 3 nautical miles. Participation mandatory to fish for grouper in Florida waters.
Expand All | Collapse All 1 gag or black within the 3 grouper aggregate 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.
The giant of the grouper family, the Goliath (formerly called Jewish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins, a large mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes, and a rounded tail. The skeletal structure of large Goliath grouper cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage.
If a large Goliath is brought on-board a vessel or out of the water, it is likely to sustain some form of internal injury and therefore be considered harvested. Goliath grouper populations declined throughout their range during the 1970s and 1980s due to increased fishing pressure from commercial and recreational fishers and divers.
At their July 2014 meeting in Key Largo, this committee reviewed the most up-to-date scientific information on goliathgrouper and recommended a new stock assessment for this species. As a result, the most recent stock assessment, conducted by the FCC was completed in June 2016 (Sedan 47).
The stock assessment indicates abundance in south Florida has greatly increased since the fishery closed in 1990. However, in the final step of the review process, the assessment was rejected by an independent panel of scientists for use in federal management due to a lack of reliable indicators of abundance outside south Florida.
Goliath are also susceptible to large scale mortality events such as cold temperatures and red tide blooms. When not feeding or spawning, adult Goliath groupers are generally solitary, sedentary and territorial.
Before the goliathgrouper reaches full-size it is preyed upon by barracuda, king mackerel and moray eels, as well as sandbar and hammerhead sharks. Calico crabs make up the majority of their diet, with other invertebrate species and fish filling in the rest.
Reproductive maturity first occurs in fish 5 or 6 years of age (about 36 inches in length) due to their slow growth rate. Males mature at a smaller size (about 42 inches) and slightly younger age than females.
These groups occur at consistent sites such as wrecks, rock ledges and isolated patch reefs during July, August and September. Studies have shown fish may move up to 62 miles (100 km) from inshore reefs to these spawning sites.
In southwest Florida, presumed courtship behavior has been observed during the full moons in August and September. Sharks come in the winter, then sea turtles in late spring and early summer.
Starting in August and peaking in September, the number of these groupers at dive sites throughout Palm Beach County swells as they gather to spawn. As spawning time approaches, however, they temporarily abandon solo life and gather in groups of 50 or more.
It’s no secret that divers love to swim with big fish, and Goliath groupers, which can reach lengths over 8 feet and weights approaching 800 pounds, certainly qualify. Despite their size, Goliath groupers prefer to eat lobsters, crabs and other small animals they can suck into their huge mouths and swallow whole.
While today, it still takes some special effort to find a spawning aggregation, not that long ago it was virtually impossible. Overfishing caused such a decline in numbers that spawning aggregations had essentially disappeared in the late 1980s.
Several spots in Palm Beach County host aggregations with fairly good reliability throughout the fall. According to Shana Plan, of Pure Vida Divers, the Micah, one of a series of wrecks in a dive known as “The Corridor,” and the Spud Barge are two favorite sites for aggregating Goliath groupers.
Goliath grouper occupies a wide geographic range, from Florida, including the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, and Caribbean Sea, south to Brazil. It is also found in both the eastern Pacific and eastern Atlantic from Senegal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, it is rare in the Canary Islands.
Based on a study done by Craig et al. (2009), results suggest that there are genetic differences between populations of goliathgrouper in U.S. waters and those near Belize and Brazil. This species of grouper tends to be easily recognizable, in part, because it is the largest grouper species in western Atlantic waters.
Its body is brownish yellow, gray or olive colored with irregular dark bars on its sides and small spots mostly on its head and fins. The goliathgrouper has a very broad head with small eyes; the spiny dorsal fin is very low, and much shorter than the second dorsal fin.
Juveniles are a yellowish-orange color with dark irregular vertical bands and blotches on their sides. The adult goliathgrouper lives in shallow waters up to 328 feet (100 meters) 6, over wrecks, corals or muddy or rocky bottoms.
This is one of the few grouper species also found in brackish water habitats. Adults are territorial and occupy limited home ranges.
Juvenile and young-adult fish can be found around estuaries mangroves and oyster bars. The typical spawning season is June through October; peak spawning within the Gulf of Mexico occurs from July through September.
5 There is still some debate whether this fish transitions from female to male as there appears to be a lack of conclusive evidence that this species is a protogynous hermaphrodite. Cryptic genetic divergence in a threatened marine fish and the resurrection of a geopolitical species.
Age, growth, and reproduction of Jewish Epimetheus Ithaca in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. IFA All Tackle Record, Fernanda Beach, FL Obama, S., B. Eris man, W. Haman, C. Biggs, N. Farmer, S. Lowerre-Barbieri, M. Karnataka, and J. Brenner.