Several species of grouper, including black, red, yellowfin, scamp, yellowmouth, rock hind and red hind will close to recreational harvest from Feb. 1 through March 31 in Gulf of Mexico state waters excluding Monroe County.

Gag grouper, which has been closed in Gulf state waters since Nov. 16, 2011, is also included in the seasonal closure through March 31. The gag grouper population is considered too low, and too many are being caught for the population to be sustainable.

Federal fishery managers are working to rebuild the gag grouper population. Changes in federal management efforts include setting the gag grouper recreational harvest season from July 1 to Oct. 31, although the new management changes will not be implemented until the final rule is printed in the Federal Register. FWC Commissioners, at their February Commission meeting in Havana, will consider whether to adopt similar standards for Gulf of Mexico state waters.

The upcoming two-month recreational harvest closure of all eight grouper species, often referred to as shallow-water grouper, is also intended to help rebuild the gag grouper fishery. Gag grouper spawn during the February and March closure, so limiting the harvest of other grouper helps reduce the number of gag grouper that are caught unintentionally and die after being released.

More information regarding grouper fishing regulations, including the current grouper closure in Atlantic and Monroe County waters, is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing. Visit MyFWC.com/Commission to learn more about the February Commission meeting.

Image courtesy Florida FWC

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