Mike Manos and his daughter Sarah, of New Port Richey, caught this big gag grouper 20 miles from the Cotee River.

Gag grouper will be open for recreational take in most Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters July 1. The same day, however, the season will close in state waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties.

The gag grouper recreational harvest season in Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters, not including Franklin, Jefferson, Wakulla, Taylor and Monroe counties, will end Oct. 31. State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties opened April 1 and close June 30. They will not be open during the July-through-October season everywhere else. Monroe County is also excluded from the July-through-October season because it is included in the Atlantic rules for gag grouper.

Gag grouper caught in state and federal waters during the July-through-October season may be taken ashore in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, but boats with gag grouper aboard may not stop in and must have gear stowed while traveling through state waters in that region.

The four-county region 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. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages marine fish from the shore to nine nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico.

The FWC is working with Florida’s anglers to rebuild gag grouper populations in the Gulf of Mexico to strong, sustainable levels. The Commission established these seasons at its February meeting. The regional season was set for 2012 only and was established to provide fishing opportunities for private, recreational anglers when gag grouper are closer to shore and can be safely accessed by smaller boats.
The gag grouper recreational harvest minimum size and bag limits are 22 inches and two gag grouper per person. No more than four of any species of grouper may be kept.

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