Gulf Coast anglers must be 100 percent of the seasons when targeting gag grouper. Some counties open in April; all open in July.

The Shallow Water Grouper closure ends March 31 in state and federal waters, opening up popular bottom species to Gulf anglers on April 1. (Remember that Keys’ Monroe County waters are grouped into Atlantic state and federal regulations.)

The annual February 1 to March 31 closure of Gulf recreational shallow-water grouper includes gag, black, red, yellowfin, scamp, yellowmouth, rock hind and red hind. The two-month closure covers spawning periods to help reduce overfishing of gag grouper and rebuild its populations.

The KEY exception is that gag grouper remain closed in Gulf federal waters until July. Only four counties in Gulf Florida state waters can keep gag grouper starting April 1. Fishermen targeting gag grouper in state waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will be able to take gag grouper home for dinner. This regional season will end June 30 and is for 2012 only. 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.

IMPORTANT: Gag grouper caught in state waters (from shore to nine miles out) off these four counties may not be taken ashore in areas that are closed to take. 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. Gag grouper caught in the 4-county region during the April 1-June 30 season may not be taken into federal waters.

Size limits and bag limits (22 inches and 2 per person) for gags have not changed in state or federal waters. Along the entire Gulf Coast, gag grouper are open to take July 1 through Oct. 31. Check the federal and state regulations for details concerning closed and open seasons. And for a detailed explanation of the regional gag grouper season in the upper Gulf Coast, check the FWC’s news release.

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