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.
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 season runs until December 31, and each angler can collect one or the other each trip within the 3 grouper aggregate.
: 0 EV Image Comment: Lens: 80-200 mm f/2.8-2.8 D Sensitivity: ISO 200 The gag grouper recreational season in the Gulf state waters off of Franklin, Weibull, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open for harvest on Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
Monroe County state waters follow Atlantic regulations. 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.
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.
It's May 1 already, thankfully, and that means recreational anglers can once again harvest the shallow water grouper species and dogfish, too. Power drifting with big jigs tipped with cut grunt will be a good way to get a bite.
Inshore: Trout fishing has been pretty steady on the flats around Vero Beach, south of Wabash Causeway and around the spoil islands near Sebastian. Use cut grunts or large chunk baits on heavy sinkers, enough weight to get through the current.
Red grouper are found in shallower water on the deep wrecks and artificial reefs. A good spot to try would be the CCA Curtis Stick Artificial Reef in 100 feet of water 12 miles southeast of the Fort Pierce Inlet.
Start off with top water lures for those early ambush strikes then switch to soft-sided jigs and jerk baits. Jacks and lady fish are roaming the lagoon in schools for fast action on light fishing tackle.
Offshore: The deep artificial reefs such as the Windstorm and Hailey Glared are prime spots to start the search for grouper. Live bait boats at Manatee Pocket have been supplying pilchards and thread fins so grab a few.
Bass anglers are still finding good fishing around Harvey Pond Canal, the Monkey Box, Horse Island and Observation Shoal. A little rain is welcome as the level of the lake continues to be on the low side since it is still being used as a source of irrigation for the AG lands surrounding it.
Dennis Forgone, left, holds a 48-pound black grouper caught by his female angler on his charter boat Free Spool. Dennis Forgone Grouper season opens Wednesday after a four-month closure, and many South Florida anglers and divers will head offshore to try to catch or spear what is considered to be one of the region’s best-tasting fish.
Dennis Forgone, who is looking forward to opening day, especially considering that last year was one of the best ever for grouper for his customers on Free Spool (www.freespoolsportfishing.com), his 43-foot charter boat that fishes out of Haul over Marina in North Miami Beach. The closure was implemented in 2010 to allow the population of black, gag and red grouper to increase in number and in size as well as protect them during their spawning seasons.
So far, that closure appears to be working, as anglers and spearfishes have been seeing and catching bigger fish. That includes artificial reefs, wrecks, ledges, rock piles and debris piles.
“Generally speaking, I fish structure from 80 to 200 feet of water from Hallandale Beach to Government Cut.” When that happens, anglers will usually break the fishing line on the sharp edges of the structure before they pull out the grouper.
“You need enough lead to hold the bottom when you’re sitting in one spot, whether it’s by the anchor or the boat’s motors. I’ll have both engines in gear and the boat will be slipping backwards because the current is so strong.
“I’ve got videos of us pulling in grouper and people commenting that I’m trolling for them. Forgone attaches his weight to the loop, which allows him to quickly remove and replace the lead when the strength of the current changes.
“The second thing we go to is anything that we have,” he says, adding that grouper will bite everything from live goggle-eyes, blue runners and grunts to strips and chunks of bonito. When a grouper grabs a bait, Forgone recommends leaving the rod in the rod-holder and reeling as fast as you can.
If a fish breaks the line, Forgone will make another drop, but he notes that the rest of the fish hanging around the structure might be turned off when they see their schoolmate with a piece of leader hanging from its lip.