Grouper Season In Gulf Of Mexico

David Lawrence
• Thursday, 15 October, 2020
• 8 min read

The FCC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) manages the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean differently, and it’s important to know what’s in season and what you can harvest from each shoreline. The Gulf of Mexico is a unique body of water that provides commercial and recreational anglers plenty of fishing opportunities.

gag grouper fishing gulf season waters federal state mexico open recreational map regulations saltwater ocala june most across soon opens
(Source: www.ocalapost.com)


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. 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.

grouper gulf mexico season gag waters state nov close
(Source: wnwpressrelease.wordpress.com)

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 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.

gag grouper season gulf open florida region county remain state
(Source: coastalanglermag.com)

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.

Scientific Livestock Status RecreationalCommercial Season Open June 1 – December 31. If landings reach the recreational ACL, harvest will be prohibited for the remainder of the fishing year.

Season Gag grouper is managed under an individual fishing quota (If) program. Anyone commercially fishes for gag grouper must possess allocation and follow established protocols.

gulf grouper season patch april closes feb mexico species opens replycount hind
(Source: patch.com)

Additionally, an eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement required to use bottom longline for Gulf reef fish in the federal waters east of 85°30 longitude. Gear Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits.

Gear Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits. In general, gag is a gray to light brown with darker wavy markings that create a marbled look on the sides of the body.

Adults prefer coastal water structures such as reefs and rocky bottoms at depths up to 500 feet (152 meters). Gag form spawning aggregations offshore in winter and early spring.

4 Gags is a broadcast spawner with external fertilization, meaning males and females emit eggs and sperm into the water column during spawning. Juveniles shelter in seagrasses, mangroves and oyster reefs before they become old enough to migrate offshore.

Gag displays protogynous Hermaphroditus, meaning they begin life as females first then a portion of the population transitions to male. Cooperative monitoring program for spawning aggregations in the Gulf of Mexico : data portal.

grouper gulf season gag underway
(Source: coastalanglermag.com)

Ahead of the first strong cold front was a very small weather window for anglers to venture offshore. I was one of them, joining Caleb and Kyle Grimes as well as friends Jon Yates and Les Hardin.

We watched the weather intently, and the timing of the cold front looked to be early in the afternoon of Sunday. After a couple throws of the cast net we had plenty of big whitebait and thread fins to join our dead bait of sardines and squid as well as 10 dozen shrimp.

The night before’s bright full moon would typically lead to tough fishing. Hardin and Yates dropped 1-ounce Hog balls and were rewarded with small red snapper.

Caleb worked heavier tackle hoping for a bigger fish but found himself also catching plenty of mangrove snapper even on the 80-pound gear. On a flat lined thread fin Kyle caught a red grouper, something that surprised us considering the bait was not close to the bottom.

That will be the main target for anglers heading into the cooler months and this year has been one of the best mangrove snapper crops I’ve ever seen. While 2020s extra red snapper season may be over, there is still plenty of reason for anglers to head offshore.

grouper gag season fishing gulf florida coast fwc recreational open counties harvest april chronicleonline
(Source: content.govdelivery.com)

*Units: Whole Weight (WW) Gray trigger fish and Greater Amber jack. (a) For gray trigger fish and greater amber jack, when the ACT is projected to be met, harvest is closed.

A fishery may close when the quota or annual catch limit is projected to be reached, sign up for fishery bulletins and text messages. NOTE: Species not listed do not currently have federal seasonal closures or quotas but states may regulate vessels registered in that state and fishing in federal waters for species that do not have applicable federal regulations, or for which management has been delegated to the state.

(3) As of April 30, 2018, the recreational Greater Amber jack fishing year was modified to be August 1 through July 31 and the fixed closed season was modified to be November 1 through April 30 and June 1 through July 31. (4) This summary is intended to provide appropriate information to fishermen about fishing regulations in the Gulf of Mexico.

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1 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/license/
2 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/license/recreational/how-to-order/
3 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/license/recreational/saltwater-fishing/
4 ccaflorida.org - https://ccaflorida.org/
5 www.dms.myflorida.com - https://www.dms.myflorida.com/business_operations/state_purchasing/myfloridamarketplace/mfmp_vendors/requirements_for_vendor_registration
6 fisstate.org - http://fisstate.org/
7 www.saltchef.com - https://www.saltchef.com/catch_fish/FL/St_Johns/fishing_piers.html
8 wildlife.ca.gov - http://wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Commercial
9 www.myfloridalicense.com - https://www.myfloridalicense.com/datamart/mainMenuFLDBPR.do
10 fishaz.azgfd.com - https://fishaz.azgfd.com/license-info/