State waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open to recreational harvest of gag grouper starting April 1.
This regional season will remain open through June 30, with the first day of the closure being July 1. The season also includes all waters of Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, including those in Gulf County, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including those in Dixie County.
Gag grouper caught in state waters (from shore to nine nautical miles out) off the four counties may not be taken ashore in areas that are closed to harvest. For example, a gag grouper caught April 1 in state waters off Jefferson County cannot be taken ashore in Dixie County, excluding the Steinhatchee River. (See maps.)
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set this regional season at its February Commission meeting to provide fishing opportunities for private recreational anglers when gag grouper are closer to shore and can be safely accessed by smaller boats. The overall fishing effort for gag grouper is low in these counties, because it is the least densely populated region of Florida's Gulf Coast. The FWC also established this spring season to balance the economic and social needs of the region with the conservation needs of gag grouper.
In the remainder of Gulf of Mexico state waters, fishermen will be able to keep gag grouper from July 1 through Dec. 3. State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will not be open during the July-through-December season. The season in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico also opens July 1 and will close when the annual catch target is projected to be met, which is expected to be sometime between Nov. 11 and Dec. 3.
Gag grouper caught in state waters outside of the four-county region and in federal waters may be taken ashore in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties during the federal season or the July-through-December state season. However, boats with gag grouper aboard may not stop in state waters off the four-county region and must have gear stowed while traveling through it to shore. Monroe County state waters are included in the Atlantic seasons and regulations for gag grouper and will not be open during the July through December season.
The FWC is working with Florida's anglers to rebuild gag grouper populations in the Gulf of Mexico so they reach strong, sustainable levels.
The gag grouper recreational harvest minimum size and bag limits are 22 inches total length and two gag grouper per person. No more than four of any species of grouper may be kept.
To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on "Saltwater," "Recreational Regulations" and "Gulf Grouper."
For maps of the included areas, go to: MyFWC.com/News and click on the headline for this story.