Anglers notified of April 1 openings, closures
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), April 1 marks the opening of the recreational harvest of grouper in all Gulf of Mexico waters off Florida, except in all waters of Monroe County.
The FWC closed the Gulf recreational shallow-water grouper fishery (gag, black, red, yellowfin, scamp, yellowmouth, rock hind and red hind) on Feb. 1 to protect gag grouper, which anglers often find and catch with the other grouper species. This two-month Gulf grouper spawning season closure helps to reduce overfishing of gag grouper and rebuild its populations so larger annual harvests may be possible in the future.
The FWC also reminds fishermen that the recreational and commercial harvest of shallow-water groupers (including gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, yellowmouth grouper and tiger grouper) remains closed until May 1 in all Atlantic Ocean and Monroe County waters.
For more online information regarding grouper fishing regulations, including size limits, bag limits and fishing seasons, go to www.MyFWC.com/RULESANDREGS.
Also, the temporary closure to the recreational harvest of bonefish and tarpon from Florida waters officially ends on April 1.
The FWC issued an executive order back on Jan. 16, which established statewide closed seasons for bonefish and tarpon as a precautionary measure due to the prolonged cold weather in Florida this past winter. This order expires April 1.
The minimum size limit for bonefish is 18 inches total length, and anglers may take one bonefish daily. Anglers may use hook-and-line gear only to harvest bonefish and may not harvest bonefish commercially.
Anglers who possess and attach a $50 tag to the fish may harvest up to two tarpon from state waters daily. Anglers cannot legally harvest tarpon from state waters by spearing, snagging or snatch hooking, and they may not sell tarpon.
Even though the FWC is again allowing the harvest of bonefish and tarpon, the agency encourages anglers to enjoy catching and releasing these important Florida game fish species and to handle and release these fish carefully to help ensure their survival.
Information regarding proper handling and release of fish is available online at catchandrelease.org/Catch_and_Release_web.pdf.
In other FWC business, the recreational and commercial harvest season for spiny lobster in Florida waters closes on April 1. The regular season will reopen on Aug. 6.
A special two-day sport season for recreational harvesters of spiny lobster will occur on the weekend of July 28-29 this summer.
More information regarding FWC spiny lobster regulations is available online at www.MyFWC.com/RULESANDREGS.