Fishermen targeting gag grouper in state waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will be able to take some of their catch home for dinner starting April 1.
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.
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 harvest. 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. (See maps.)
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) established this regional season at its February Commission meeting to provide fishing opportunities for private recreational anglers when gag grouper are closer to shore and can be safely accessed by smaller boats. Overall fishing effort for gag grouper is low in these counties, because it is the least densely populated region of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Providing this spring season will balance the economic and social needs of this region with the conservation needs of gag grouper.
In Gulf of Mexico federal waters (beyond nine miles) and in the remainder of Gulf of Mexico state waters, fishermen will be able to keep gag grouper from July 1 through Oct. 31. State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will not open during the July-through-October season.
Gag grouper may be taken ashore in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties during the July-through-October season, but boats with gag grouper aboard may not stop and must have gear stowed while traveling through state waters in that region. Monroe County state waters follow Atlantic rules for gag grouper and are not included in the July-through-October season.
The FWC is working with Florida’s anglers to rebuild gag grouper populations in the Gulf of Mexico back to strong, sustainable levels.
The gag grouper recreational harvest minimum size and bag limits did not change and remain at 22 inches and two gag grouper per person. No more than four of any species of grouper may be kept.