Except for Nassau grouper, every other available grouper species can be kept in Florida, as long as it stays within the size limit, and you adhere to all the rules and regulations while catching them at the appropriate time of the year.
Is fishing for groupers allowed in Florida?
There are many species of grouper. Some are allowed to be fished and harvested, while others are prohibited. The reason is obvious. Groupers are one of the fish that have become victims of overfishing. These fish are found only in certain locations, and the stock population in almost all of them has been reduced significantly.
For some species, this has gone so far that they have become endangered, and fishing for those groupers has either been prohibited or imposed certain regulations on their fishing. This is mainly because groupers take a lot of time to reproduce, and most get caught before they become mature enough to do so.
Another common reason groupers easily become overfished victims is that many of them reproduce in congregations. Hundreds of them gather in the most favorable part of their habitat. Once anglers find those specific locations, they target those locations to get a certain catch. As a result, a lot of groupers get caught before being able to reproduce.
In Florida, restrictions have been imposed on what groupers you can fish for. Some groupers are only allowed to be fished during specific seasons, and there is a bag limit for it and specific gear that must be used. Some groupers can be fished all year round, with bag limits. Other groupers are completely prohibited.
Can you keep Goliath groupers in Florida?
After 30 years of the ban on the fishing of Goliath groupers in Florida, anglers can now keep Goliath groupers in Florida. In October 2021, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a proposal to allow the harvest of only 200 goliath groupers by anglers within the specific period between March and May 2022. This will continue every year until further notice, with 200 permits each year.
This works in a lottery system. Anglers who are interested will have to enter a lottery draw for a chance to win a grouper tag. Those who wish to harvest groupers have to ensure the fish falls within a certain size limit as determined by state authorities.
The permits are non-transferable and are divided into two categories. The first category allows harvest in all open areas, including Everglades National Park, and the second one includes harvest allowance in open areas, but not Everglades National Park. To enter the lottery, you will have to pay $10, and it’s non-refundable. If the permit is won, then the price to keep the grouper is $150 for Florida residents and $500 for non-residents.
Before this system was introduced, Floridians couldn’t keep Goliath groupers. If anyone captured a goliath grouper, the fish would have to be immediately released alive, unharmed, and with proper fish handling techniques. Large groupers could not be removed from the water because their skeletal structure could not support their weight outside the water. Photos of the fish were allowed, as long as releasing the fish back into the water was not delayed. Many more such restrictions were imposed.
What are the limits and restrictions for Goliath grouper harvesting in Florida?
In Florida, the bag limit for Goliath grouper is one fish per person during the open season. The person must have a permit and a grouper tag. The slot limit is 24″ to 36″ in total length. The grouper can only be caught with hook-and-line. When using natural baits, it is required that the circle hooks are non-offset and made of non-stainless material. The angler or harvester must possess and use a dehooking device.
The areas that are closed to fishing for goliaths are the state waters of Martin County, including the St. Lucie River and its tributaries, south through the Atlantic coast of the Keys, Dry Tortugas National Park, and all federal waters.
Can you keep gag groupers in Florida?
Gag groupers are also endangered, so fishing and harvesting it is regulated in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), fishing for gag groupers is open from June 1 to December 31 in all federal and most state waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The FWC has imposed a minimum size limit for the harvested gag grouper, and the size is 24 inches in total length. Moreover, the daily bag limit for gag groupers is two gags per person, within the aggregate limit of four per person. Anglers also need permits to fish for gag groupers. For this, you have to sign up annually as a “State Reef Fish Angler.” The same goes for those who want to fish for amberjack or gray triggerfish in the state and federal waters of the Gulf.
What other groupers can you keep in Florida?
There are 159 grouper species out there, and only 13 of them are available in Florida. The regulations and restrictions for each of these groupers are different, but most of them are allowed to be fished.
The only group you can’t keep in Florida is the Nassau grouper, which is extremely endangered. All the other groupers can be kept in Florida, but there are seasonal and bag limits imposed for each, depending on the location. Fishing for some groupers is open year-round in the Atlantic and Gulf, while others may be open in one place but closed in another.
For example, fishing for red grouper is closed from January 1 to April 30 in the Atlantic but open year-round in the Gulf. The minimum bag limit is 3 per harvester and 2 per harvester, respectively, while the size limit is 20 inches. The same goes for yellowfin, and yellowmouth groupers, except the bag limits are 3 per harvester and 4 per harvester, respectively.
Fishing for Warsaw grouper is open year-round, and there is no size limit imposed because the population of this grouper is free of the risk of extinction. To find out the details about every grouper, you can check out FWC’s website.
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