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.
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.
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.
Gulf grouper are large fish that live in shallow, coastal areas during their first 2 years of their life, before moving on to rocky reefs and kelp beds. Gulf grouper used to be very common in the eastern Pacific Ocean, but they became scarce because commercial and recreational fisherman could easily catch them.
Their abundance has severely declined since the mid-20th century primarily because of direct harvest by commercial and artisanal fisheries. In the Gulf of California, gulf grouper were once abundant and represented approximately 45 percent of the artisanal fishery in 1960.
Outside a known population in Bahia Magdalena, there is no published evidence of gulf grouper along the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula. They are naturally rare north of Bahia Magdalena in southern Baja California.
Gulf grouper are also likely protogynous hermaphroditic, which means that they mature as females and later transition into males. They gather at reefs and underwater mountains and form spawning aggregations from April to June.
Activities that may degrade their habitat include the release of contaminants, such as urban runoff, wastewater, or oil and gas spills. Pollution can also reduce the amount of oxygen in the water or deliver chemicals that are toxic to these fish.
Physical barriers, such as shoreline and offshore development can also threaten gulf grouper by limiting their access to important breeding or feeding areas. Overfishing Direct harvest of gulf grouper, especially at spawning aggregation sites, is the biggest threat to the species.
First, adult gulf grouper gather in large groups at the same time every year to reproduce. This means that there are fewer male groupers left in the oceans, which makes reproduction more difficult.
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.
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. Scientific Livestock Status RecreationalCommercial Season Open June 1 – December 31.
Anyone commercially fishes for gag grouper must possess allocation and follow established protocols. 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.
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.
Aggregate bag limits apply Regulations only apply in Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties.
The Boundary coincides with the line of demarcation between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, which begins at the intersection of the outer boundary of the EEA, as specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 83°00’ W long., proceeds northward along that meridian to 24° 35’ N lat. Marine Sanctuaries and Area Closures Note: All coordinates have been converted to degrees, minutes, seconds.
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Below is a summary of regulated activity within the Albums. For the full text, contact the Sanctuary office at 409-621-5151 or visit www.flowergarden.noaa.gov.
Injuring, catching, harvesting, collecting or feeding, or attempting to injure, catch, harvest, collect or feed, any fish within the sanctuary by use of any gear, device, equipment or means (e.g. spear guns, nets) except by use of conventional hook and line gear. Possessing (except while passing through the sanctuary without interruption) any fishing gear, device, equipment, or means except conventional hook and line gear.
Injuring or removing, or attempting to injure or remove, any coral or other bottom formation, coralline algae or other plant, marine invertebrate (e.g., spiny lobster, queen conch, shell, sea urchin), brine-seep iota or carbonate rock. Possessing within the Sanctuary (regardless of where collected), any coral or other bottom formation, coralline algae or other plant, or fish (except for fish caught by use of conventional hook and line gear).
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Tortuga's North and South Ecological Reserves (k) Closure provisions applicable to the Madison and Swanson sites, Steamboat Lumps, and the Edges.
(2) Within the Madison and Swanson sites and Steamboat Lumps, possession of Gulf reef fish is prohibited, except for such possession aboard a vessel in transit with fishing gear stowed as specified in paragraph (k)(4) of this section. (3) Within the Madison and Swanson sites and Steamboat Lumps during November through April, and within the Edges during January through April, all fishing is prohibited, and possession of any fish species is prohibited, except for such possession aboard a vessel in transit with fishing gear stowed as specified in paragraph (k)(4) of this section.
Terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) must be disconnected and stowed separately from the rod and reel. (5) Within the Madison and Swanson sites and Steamboat Lumps, during May through October, surface trolling is the only allowable fishing activity.
For the purpose of this paragraph (k)(5), surface trolling is defined as fishing with lines trailing behind a vessel which is in constant motion at speeds in excess of four knots with a visible wake. Such trolling may not involve the use of down riggers, wire lines, planers, or similar devices.
(6) For the purpose of paragraph (k) of this section, fish means finish, mollusks, crustaceans, and all other forms of marine animal and plant life other than marine mammals and birds. Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Reserves are closed to reef-fish fishing year round.
Surface trolling for species other than reef fish is allowed May 1 through October 31. The Edges (40 fathom contour) is closed January 1 through April 30 to all fishing.
(2) Within the prohibited area and time period specified in paragraph (q)(1) of this section, a vessel with bottom longline gear on board may not possess Gulf reef fish unless the bottom longline gear is appropriately stowed, and a vessel that is using bottom longline gear to fish for species other than Gulf reef fish may not possess Gulf reef fish. For the purposes of paragraph (q) of this section, appropriately stowed means that a longline may be left on the drum if all gang ions and hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck; hooks cannot be baited; and all buoys must be disconnected from the gear but may remain on deck.
(3) Within the Gulf EEA east of 85°30’ W. longitude, a vessel for which a valid eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement has been issued that is fishing bottom longline gear or has bottom longline gear on board cannot possess more than a total of 1000 hooks including hooks on board the vessel and hooks being fished and cannot possess more than 750 hooks rigged for fishing at any given time. © Reef fish longline and buoy gear restricted area.
A person aboard a vessel that uses, on any trip, longline or buoy gear in the longline and buoy gear restricted area is limited on that trip to the bag limits for Gulf reef fish specified in §622.38(b) and, for Gulf reef fish for which no bag limit is specified in §622.38(b), the vessel is limited to 5 percent, by weight, of all fish on board or landed. The use of longlines and buoy gear for reef fish is prohibited inside 50 fathoms west of Cape San Bias, Florida.
East of Cape San Bias, the use of longlines and buoy gear for reef fish is prohibited inside 20 fathoms year round and 35 fathoms during June – August (see next page). From June through August each year, bottom long lining for Gulf reef fish is prohibited in the portion of the Gulf EEA east of 85°30’ W longitude (Cape San Bias).
Coral Amendment 9 Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HA PCs) Amendment 9 to the Fishery Management Plan for Coral and Coral Reef Resources in the Gulf of Mexico U.S. waters (Amendment 9), which became effective on November 16, 2020, establishes 13 new habitat areas of particular concern with fishing regulations. These areas have been identified as having sufficient numbers and diversity of deep-water corals to be considered essential fish habitat.
The new areas are: West Florida Wall, Alabama Alps Reef, Law Pinnacles and Scamp Reef (combined area), Mississippi Canyon 118, Rough Tongue Reef, Visa Knoll 826, Visa Knoll 862/906, AT 047, AT 357, Green Canyon 852, Southern Bank, Harte Bank, and Pulley Ridge South Portion A. Fishermen possessing a royal red shrimp endorsement that are deploying royal red shrimp fishing gear are exempt from the prohibition on deployment of bottom-tending gear.