The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today approved an Oct. 1-21 supplemental recreational red snapper season in Gulf state waters for 2013 and eliminated a Feb. 1 – March 31 closure affecting several species of grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters and a Nov. 1 – March 31 recreational season closure for vermilion snapper in Atlantic state waters. The elimination changes go into effect before the scheduled closures would have occurred. The season eliminations will also make state regulations consistent with federal regulations.
State waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf and from shore to 3 nautical miles in the Atlantic. Federal waters extend out from where state waters end to about 200 nautical miles.
The Oct. 1-21 supplemental recreational red snapper season in Gulf state waters is for 2013 only. An October supplemental season has also been proposed for Gulf federal waters. Federal fishery managers are still analyzing recreational harvest estimates for the 2013 regular season to determine whether or not to open the recreational red snapper season in Gulf federal waters. NOAA Fisheries Service is expected to make an announcement regarding the potential federal season sometime in the next few weeks.
Grouper species affected by elimination of the Feb. 1 – March 31 Gulf closure include black, red, red hind, rock hind, scamp, yellowfin and yellowmouth. Grouper species in state waters off Monroe County are managed by Atlantic state regulations and, therefore, are not affected by this change.
In federal waters, the Feb. 1 – March 31 closure was recently removed in waters shoreward of 20 fathoms or about 120 feet deep.
The Feb. 1 – March 31 closure was adopted as an effort to rebuild gag grouper populations during the spawning season. Today, gag grouper is managed separately from other Gulf groupers with its own harvest season, which is open July 1 through Dec. 3 in most state and all federal waters. Removing this closure will provide anglers with additional opportunities to fish for many species of grouper during February and March in Gulf state waters.
Thanks to successful state and federal fishery management, vermilion snapper populations have improved. In 2008, the Atlantic vermilion snapper population was considered to be undergoing overfishing, which means more fish were being removed from the population than was considered sustainable. At the time, state and federal fishery managers implemented several management changes, including bag limit reductions and the five-month season closure for the recreational fishery. A 2012 stock assessment revealed these management actions were successful in rebuilding vermillion snapper numbers. Reopening the season will positively benefit recreational anglers by providing additional fishing opportunities.
Learn more about Gulf grouper, Gulf red snapper and Atlantic vermilion snapper by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Saltwater” then “Recreational Regulations.”