Is There A Grouper Season In Florida

James Lee
• Tuesday, 24 November, 2020
• 7 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.

grouper season pluses its florida keys fishing minuses fish snowy reel
(Source: keysweekly.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 gag season fishing gulf florida coast fwc recreational open counties harvest april chronicleonline
(Source: content.govdelivery.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).

Anglers love groupers for two main reasons: They’re tough, strong fighters, and they’re delicious to eat. © Provided by Sport Fishing Now is the prime time to catch big black groupers in South Florida.

© Jim Hendricks Now is the prime time to catch big black groupers in South Florida. That closure, which runs through April 30 in Atlantic waters, started in 2010 to allow the populations of black, gag and red groupers to increase in number and in size, as well as to protect the fish during their spawning seasons.

© Provided by Sport Fishing Generally smaller than blacks and gags, red grouper need only be 20 inches to qualify as legal in Florida ’s Atlantic waters. Most anglers prefer to live-bait around coral reefs and wrecks, either anchoring up current, drifting or trolling their baits.

“With that being said, especially from now until December, if you caught live ballyhoo and slow-trolled them in 15 to 50 feet of water, wherever you find a reef edge, they’re very, very effective.” © Scott Sayers Generally smaller than blacks and gags, red grouper need only be 20 inches to qualify as legal in Florida ’s Atlantic waters.

grouper florida gulf season opens fl southwest patch pinellas hind yellowmouth yellowfin springtime must open rock
(Source: patch.com)

“You’re trolling those little lures around all the wrecks out to 200 feet, and at some point you’ll catch baby bonitos,” he says. “As soon as you catch a baby bonito, you hook it through the upper lip and you drop it down on the upstream side of the wreck.

© Provided by Sport Fishing Pinkish make one of the most consistently productive baits for groupers. Once you hook a keeper grouper, the fish typically swims right back into the wreck or reef where it was sheltering.

Having the proper tackle makes the difference between losing the fish and pulling it away from its home, Smith says. “If you’re truly targeting big groupers, you’re better off with real heavy monofilament and the craziest, tightest drag you can imagine fishing,” he says.

© Steve Waters A single-hook ballyhoo rigged behind a Sea Witch beneath a planer tops the list of trolling baits for Capt. © Provided by Sport Fishing A single-hook ballyhoo rigged behind a Sea Witch beneath a planer tops the list of trolling baits for Capt.

Buddy Carey of the famed Pier 5 charter fleet in Miami perfected trolling for grouper more than 50 years ago. Smith trolls a Sea Witch with a ballyhoo rigged on a 7/0 triple-strength 3417 Mustard J hook at the end of a 100-foot length of 100-pound monofilament leader connected to a planer.

grouper seasons coastalanglermag
(Source: coastalanglermag.com)

He uses a Penn International 50 spooled with 65-pound braided line to fish along coral reefs in 50 feet of water or shallower. “The groupers, on occasion, come up and hit it on top of the water, but basically you want the bait about 10 feet off the bottom,” he says.

In addition to trolling reefs, Smith works the edges of the ship channels at Port Everglades, Lake Worth, and Fort Pierce inlets as well as Government Cut. Sanding the top of the lure and painting it yellow makes it even more effective, he says, because black groupers eat yellowtail snapper.

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.

gag season grouper florida last happy spearfishing comments
(Source: www.reddit.com)

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.

Western boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region. Eastern boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region.

This past Friday was also the start of the eight-month recreational grouper season, and while there are far fewer tourists in the Keys these days hunting the sought-after fish, some local anglers are picking up the slack. On opening day John Villa of Ta vernier caught a 43.5-pound black grouper off Islamabad in 85 feet of water.

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

Like many captains in the Keys, Hurricane Irma spelled an end to his professional charter angling career. The fish was caught aboard the charter boat Got Fishes, operated by Ken Ramming at the Post Card Inn and Marina on Lindley Key.

Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. Shook are found from central Florida south, usually inshore in coastal and brackish waters.

Tarpon are primarily inshore fish, preferring shallow estuaries around mangrove forests, salt marshes or hard-bottom/seagrass communities of the Keys. They tolerate a wide salinity range, and as juveniles, enter fresh waters.

Florida pompano are common in inshore and nearshore waters, especially along sandy beaches, along oyster banks, and over grass beds. Black grouper spawn between May and August, and they are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that young predominantly female who transform into males as they grow larger.

Larger individuals of this species are generally found in greater depths, and they feed on fish and squid. Undergoes sex reversal from female to male in latter part of life; specific name translates to “venomous,” alluding to the fact that this fish, perhaps more frequently than other groupers, is associated with ciguatera poisoning; feeds on fish and squid.

grouper gag florida season fishing gulf certain open species catching counties mexico saltwater anglers enjoy each popular most
(Source: www.grandviewoutdoors.com)

The Atlantic croaked inhabits deep offshore waters during the winter months and moves into bays and estuaries during the spring, summer and fall. Spawning season is from about August through December, in passes, inlets and lagoon estuaries around the state.

During spawning season, redfish use special muscles rubbing against their air bladder to produce a “drumming” sound for which they are named.

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1 marinesanctuary.org - https://marinesanctuary.org/blog/goliath-grouper-habitat-diet-and-reproduction/
2 www.georgiaaquarium.org - https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/animal/goliath-grouper/
3 mnzoo.org - https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/goliath-grouper/
4 www.petmetwice.com - https://www.petmetwice.com/groupers/
5 www.safariltd.com - https://www.safariltd.com/safaripedia/goliath-grouper
6 marine-conservation.org - https://marine-conservation.org/on-the-tide/atlantic-goliath-grouper/
7 www.fishbase.se - https://www.fishbase.se/Country/CountrySpeciesSummary.php
8 safmc.net - https://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species/goliath-grouper/