The harvest season for gag grouper, the most popular recreational species of grouper, reopens July 1 in most of the state and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Grouper regulations can be confusing, especially for those who have seen a half dozen rule changes in as many years, but here is a quick primer:
In 2009, federal fishery managers determined that the gulf's grouper stocks were overfished. As a result, gag fishing shut down for all but two months in fall 2011. State officials subsequently adopted a July 1 to Oct. 1, 2012 gag season for most of the state except for the waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties (which had an April 1 to June 30 season).
So when the waters open in most of central, southwest and northwest Florida, the season will close in the four-county region that includes all of Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, Gulf County, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including those in Dixie County.
Gulf anglers may keep two gag grouper 22 inches or longer. The aggregate bag limit for grouper of all species is four fish per person.
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FWC to meet with much on agenda
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will meet June 27-28 in Palm Beach Gardens to discuss everything from the management of the state's black bear population to a pilot program for anchoring and mooring for recreational boats. But one of the most highly anticipated discussions will be what to do about snook on the state's gulf coast.
A closure was initiated in 2010 after a series of freezes decimated the snook population. An executive order kept fishing closed through Aug. 31, but commissioners will review an updated stock assessment and may let the order expire, which will then reinstate the old fall season.