FWC Adopts New Seasons for Gag Grouper in Gulf

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. VIEW THE GULF FEDERAL REGULATIONS.

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 a take season in state waters during April, May and June, and close the season 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.

Check what Florida Sportsman members are saying about the new regulations.

  • mike

    Thats nice that you are being considerate of the commercial fisherman.The recreational anglers side of this story should be adressed also.The common recreational angler with a busy lifes schedule only gets to fish on ocassion,the fact that he can not enjoy his catch is wrong.We have obeyed your laws and not seen any reward.Now we cant keep fish until July.I and many others dont see the lack of fish that you do.I can apreciate your efforts to not over fish any species.The fact is that Recreational anglers can not truly over fish the population.Yes they can make them hook shy on popular numbers but not truly affect the numbers of fish in the following years population.I have not seen any more fish since all this has began in the early 90's than there was then.Recreational anglers do not affect the long term numbers of fish in any species if they are following the given reasonable laws.

  • capcioffi

    "" We have to rely on the data we have available and make good decisions.”

    This is a very sad statement, the FWC needs to get their head straight and get some real data.

    So if I get this CRAP straight, the commercial guys get to keep smaller grouper than the recreational guys. They say they get so many grouper that are just short and that the grouper are floating away. NOW if history is to repeat itself as it has for the last couple of years, as soon as the commercial side fills it's catch allotment they will close down the fishery all together including the recreational side (because if the commercial guys caught their allotment so did the recreational side). If the FWC is really looking at economics, the recreational sector brings in and puts in a ton more money into the florida economy than the commerical industry does. People come to Florida "the fishing captial of the WORLD" to catch fish and take some home. They would love to eat some fresh seafood, but the reason they took a vactionan to Florida was to fish. If you think I am off my rocker or just plain wrong just look what happens to local economies in the gulf when they open snapper and grouper. People for all over the Southeast come to Florida and other Gulf states to CATCH AND KEEP some fish.

    • jwalker

      I'm with ya capcioffi!! I am one of those who come when I can catch and KEEP some fish. I live in Birmingham, but have been fishing in the Gulf out of Destin for over 20 years now. And you're right, as soon as the commercial guys have their catch, we all lose. I can't vote for your politicians, but I can sure as hell send my money to support the ones that have their heads on straight and not taking from the commercial lobby.

  • T.J. Singer

    We all need to organize and support a political candidate who has the authority to set this straight.

  • Pissed

    So what can we do?! This is insane, this is going to kill the recreational fishing industry which as stated brings in far more money than the commercial.

  • peariver

    Three years ago I owned a boat and made a trip or two each month to Panama City to fish for red snapper and grouper but mostly snappe from April to October. I sold that boat and now stick to fishing here in Georgia on the Flint River. I would rather fish in the Gulf but no way can I justify the cost of keeping up a boat for one month out of the year of use. Does the state of Florida notice I am not going anymore, probably no more than I would notice one light going out on our Christmas tree but I have to wonder how many other lights have gone out as well as regulations continue to diminish the ability to fish.

    I also used to fish twice a year out of Panacea on a six man charter trip for grouper in April and May. We haven't done that in two years either and those involved two nights stay, meals and beverages. Whether or not Florida feels that one or not, I personally know the charter boat captain has as he no longer is in business.

  • Dusktilldawn

    HOw in the world can opening state waters in the summer align fisherman with better oppurtunity to catch Gags? They dont show up heavily in state waters till september- Oct

  • Dusktilldawn

    If the season is open in the summer when the gags are loaded offshore it just allows more commercial catch….And lowering commercial size limits????? Seriously….on a fish that supposedly should not be commercially targeted. This is all a slap in the face to the Recreational fisherman.