September 16, 2021
By Jeff Weakley
As of mid-September, annual catch limits for recreational anglers have been met for a number of popular reef fish around the Florida coasts. That means early closures on some species.
On Atlantic waters, golden tilefish will close at 12:01 a.m. on September 20, 2021. Federal scientists say landings data indicate the recreational anglers have reached the 2021 annual catch limit of 2,316 fish. Golden tile will open again January 1, 2022. The closure applies to federal waters, which begin three miles offshore on the Florida Atlantic coast (there are a few places within state waters where some tilefish may be caught—between Palm Beach and Miami). A related species, blueline tilefish, closed on September 1 and reopens May 1, 2022.
Gulf side, red grouper and gray triggerfish were both closed as of 12:01 a.m. September 15. NOAA Fisheries reports the 2021 red grouper recreational annual catch limit of 1 million pounds gutted weight was met as of June 30, 2021, and NOAA projects the gray triggerfish recreational catch target of 274,323 pounds whole weight has also been met. Again, this is a federal waters closure—and Gulf federal waters begin 9 miles off the Florida Gulf coast, so there are some inshore areas (Panhandle, for instance) where anglers may still keep these two species. Note that federally permitted charter/headboat vessels must abide by the red grouper and gray triggerfish closure in state waters, as well.
Note, too, that commercial fishing for Gulf red grouper and gray tilefish continues under the Individual Fishing Quota system. The commercial fleet is allocated about 60 percent of the total annual catch limit for red grouper. Federal scientists say the red grouper population in the Gulf is showing signs of trouble in the shape of landings declines in recent years, and they’ve been reducing catch targets in recent years accordingly.
Last but not least, Gulf deep-drop anglers should be aware that a set of closures was announced for Gulf waters: The “mid-water snapper complex,” which consists of blackfin snapper, queen snapper, silk snapper and wenchmen, will close at 12:01 a.m. on September 18. The 2021 annual catch limit for these species is 166,000 pounds whole weight, and based on preliminary landings, that target has been met, according to NOAA Fisheries.