In past years, Many different types of grouper, including black, red, yellowfin, scamp, yellowmouth, rock hind and red hind were off limits to anglers from Feb. 1 through March 31.
Now, the ruling has been removed for fishing in both state and federal Gulf waters shoreward of the 20-fathom line or about 120 feet of water. The closure of these species remains in place for anglers fishing seaward of the 20-fathom line in the Gulf of Mexico.
This closure was removed in state waters last September by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and for federal waters last summer by NOAA Fisheries.
The change does not apply to gag grouper in any Gulf waters. Gag grouper has its own season that opens July 1 and typically closes sometime before the end of the year when the quota is reached.
The original recreational shallow-water grouper closure was part of a suite of measures designed to achieve target harvest levels for red grouper and gag grouper.
Venting tool requirement
As of Jan. 24, Florida anglers no longer will be required to have and use a venting tool when fishing for reef fish such as snapper and grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters. The rule requiring the use of a venting tool in federal waters was removed last fall.
Removal of this rule means anglers will have the freedom to determine how to best maximize survival of released reef fish using devices they feel are appropriate, depending on the circumstances.
Venting tools are hollow, sharpened instruments that provide one way to treat barotrauma, a condition that occurs when fish are brought quickly to the surface from deep water. The change in pressure from depth to surface can cause gases within the fish’s swim bladder to expand, which can damage internal organs and reduce the likelihood a fish will survive when returned to the water.
The use of non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks, and dehooking devices are still required in state and federal Gulf waters when fishing for reef fish. These tools minimize handling time for reef fish, which aids in the survival of the fish upon release.