Grouper Season 2012

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted Feb. 8 to change how gag grouper is managed in Gulf of Mexico state waters (excluding Monroe County).
The decision, which came during day two of the three-day February Commission meeting, will achieve consistency with federal management efforts while potentially providing a region-specific recreational season in four counties.
The FWC manages marine fish from the shore to nine nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manages Gulf of Mexico waters farther than nine nautical miles out. The following changes will make state gag grouper management efforts the same as recent federal gag grouper management efforts in the Gulf of Mexico: setting the recreational open season from July 1 through Oct. 31 and lowering the minimum commercial size limit from 24 inches to 22 inches total length.
The Commission also authorized Chairman Kathy Barco and Executive Director Nick Wiley to issue an executive order opening gag grouper season in the state waters off Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin counties, including Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass. This gag grouper recreational season, if implemented, will open harvest in state waters during April, May and June, and close harvest in those waters during the July-to-October season. These changes will better align fishing opportunity with fish availability.
“I think we have to be sensitive to the economic side and the natural resource side,” said Commissioner Charles W. Roberts III. “I don’t think there is anybody here, especially in this room, who would like to jeopardize gag grouper. This isn’t an easy decision. We have to rely on the data we have available and make good decisions.”
Gag grouper has been closed in Gulf of Mexico state waters since Nov. 16, 2011.
The FWC believes applying these management changes will allow gag grouper populations to rebuild quickly while balancing the needs of anglers.

Grouper Season

April 6, 2011
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Wednesday approved a rule amendment regarding open and closed recreational harvest seasons in 2011 for gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters that would be consistent with anticipated interim rules in Gulf federal waters.

Gulf gag grouper are considered to be overfished and undergoing overfishing, and federal fisheries managers are preparing a plan to help rebuild populations of these fish in Gulf waters. In the meantime, interim federal rules are in effect that prohibit the recreational harvest of gag grouper in Gulf federal waters (beyond nine nautical miles from shore). This federal prohibition is expected to be in effect through the end of 2011, except for a planned Sept. 16 through Nov. 15 open recreational harvest season for gag grouper in the Gulf.

The FWC believes that applying the same recreational open and closed harvest seasons for gag grouper in Gulf state waters (inside nine nautical miles from shore) as in federal offshore waters would maximize fishing opportunities for anglers and charter boat operators along Florida’s Gulf coast and provide economic benefits to this region.

The FWC’s rule for Gulf state waters, except Monroe County waters, would establish a closed gag grouper recreational harvest season of June 1 through the end of 2011, except for an open gag grouper recreational harvest season of Sept. 16 through Nov. 15. These seasons would apply this year only, and they are contingent upon approval of the same gag grouper harvest seasons in Gulf federal waters.

More information regarding the FWC’s Gulf gag grouper approved rule amendment is available online at, linked from the April 6-7 meeting agenda. This rule takes effect on June 1, contingent upon approval of the federal Gulf gag grouper recreational seasons.


Grouper Season Closed

December 28, 2010

The recreational harvest of gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico federal waters off Florida will be prohibited beginning Jan. 1.  Federal fisheries managers recently announced a temporary rule that closes Gulf federal waters to recreational fishing for gag grouper for six months while they develop long-term measures to improve gag grouper populations.  Gulf federal waters extend beyond nine nautical miles from Florida’s shoreline.

Gulf state waters (from shore out to nine nautical miles) will remain open for recreational gag grouper harvest until Feb. 1.  However, people on federally permitted for-hire reef-fish vessels may not harvest or possess gag grouper in state waters during the temporary federal closure.

More information on grouper management is available at (click on “Fishing – Saltwater”), or call 850-487-0554.


Grouper Season

November 30, 2010

NOAA Fisheries Service announces a temporary rule to decrease the commercial quota of gag, suspend the use of red grouper multi-use individual fishing quota (IFQ) commercial allocation, and temporarily set the gag bag limit to zero. The final rule publishes in the Federal Register on December 1, 2010, and will be effective January 1, 2011.
Gag is considered overfished (population abundance is too low) and undergoing overfishing (rate of removal too high). The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that overfished stocks be rebuilt and that overfishing be halted. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) requested NOAA Fisheries Service implement this temporary rule to address overfishing while they developed a long-term rebuilding plan through Amendment 32 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.
Commercial management measures
The rule establishes a quota of 100,000 pounds. The 2009 population assessment update for gag grouper indicated the commercial quota should be reduced from 1.49 million pounds to 390,000 pounds. However, because of some recently discovered issues regarding the way the assessment model estimated dead discards (fish that die after they are released), the Council asked NOAA Fisheries Service to re-examine the results of the assessment. Until those results are known, the Council wanted to be conservative in its actions to harvest gag. The Council did not set the quota to zero because the commercial fleet generally harvests fish in deeper waters where the fish are likely to die from barotrauma. Therefore, the Council asked for this minimal 100,000-pound quota to allow such incidentally caught gag to be landed and counted against the quota instead of being discarded.
The rule suspends the use of red grouper IFQ multi-use allocation, which could be used to harvest gag. Currently, 4 percent of an IFQ participant’s red grouper allocation is converted to multi-use allocation. If the multi-use allocation is used to harvest gag, these additional gag landings would allow the harvest to exceed the reduced gag quota. Note that this part of the rule would not reduce an IFQ participant’s red grouper allocation. The rule would simply not allow 4 percent of the total allocation to be converted to multi-use allocation.
Recreational management measures
For the recreational sector, the rule temporarily sets the bag limit for gag grouper at zero, effectively setting the harvest to zero. It was the intent of the Council, when requesting this temporary rule, that there should be a recreational harvest of gag in 2011; however, this season will be developed in Amendment 32 if supported by the science. If the Council allowed the recreational sector to fish for gag at the beginning of the 2011 fishing year, the recreational season later in the year would have to be shortened. The Council favored a summer fishing season for gag because it maximized the season length and so requested the temporary closure to delay the beginning of the season.