South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

The South Atlantic Bite

Newsworthy Notes – April 25th, 2024

Know Before You Go: Shallow Water Grouper Seasonal Opening and Other Fed Regulation Changes Begin May 1

Spring fishing is off to a great start this year, and beginning Wednesday, May 1st, fishermen have the opportunity to harvest species in the shallow water grouper management complex in federal waters in the South Atlantic. The management complex includes 10 species: Black Grouper, Gag, Yellowfin, Scamp, Yellowmouth, *Red Grouper, Coney, Graysby, Red Hind, and Rock Hind. *Note that Red Grouper opens to harvest in North Carolina and South Carolina on June 1st. An annual spawning season closure begins January 1st each year to help protect species during spawning activities.

Shallow Water Grouper ID Guide is available from the Council’s website and a helpful reference for identifying the different species.

Gag Grouper Changes

NOAA Fisheries has determined the 2024 recreational season for Gag Grouper is May 1 – June 15, 2024. The Gag Grouper stock in the South Atlantic is overfished and undergoing overfishing. See the Fishery Bulletin for details. Catch limits for the commercial fishery have also been reduced.

Other Species

Greater Amberjack – Both recreational and commercial season opens May 1st. Recreational bag limit 1 per person with min. size limit 28″ fork length.

Blueline Tilefish – Recreational season open May 1 – July 19

Hogfish (FL Keys and East Florida) – Recreational season open May 1 – Oct 31

Red Porgy – Recreational season open May 1 – June 30

Snowy Grouper – Recreational season open May 1 – June 30

Additional regulations for individual species are available from the Council’s website at: Fishing Seasonal Closures information is available from NOAA Fisheries:

A small gag grouper is held out in front of the ocean.
Greater Amberjack leaps out of the water with a fishing lure in its' mouth.

Fish Rules – Regulations on the Go

FishRules Logo.

Keeping up with complex fishing regulations can be a challenge. Download the free Fish Rules mobile app and have the latest regulations in hand no matter where you go. Even offshore and out of cell range! Check for updates before leaving the dock, and the Fish Rules app provides regulations for individual species based on your location. Download the mobile app now and know before you go!

Best Fishing Practices, Requirements, and SAFMC Release

With an increase in the number of fish being released and the number of fishermen on the water this season, using best fishing practices is more important than ever. Best practices can help ensure the survival of released fish.

Check out the Best Fishing Practices page of the Council’s website to learn about requirements for descending devices, circle hooks, and dehooking tools when targeting snapper grouper species. There are instructional videos as well as photos showing the signs of barotrauma, the expansion of gases after fish are rapidly reeled up from depth.

Learn how to identify barotrauma, properly use a descending device to return a released fish to depth, and other measures to improve your next fishing trip and help ensure the future of the fishery.

Want to make a difference in your snapper grouper fishery here in the South Atlantic and help collect data on released fish? SAFMC Release empowers fishermen to provide details about released shallow water grouper and Red snapper using the SciFish mobile app!

Scientists can use information collected through SAFMC Release to better understand which of these fish are being released, what size they are, and how many survive. Learn more and set up your account today!

Releasing a red snapper with a descending device.

Reminder! SAFMC’s Best Fishing Practices Master Volunteer Program

Fishermen who fish for snapper grouper species in federal waters take note! Plan now to attend an in-person two hour workshop in your area and be a part of the Council’s Best Fishing Practices (BFP) Master Volunteer Program (MVP). The workshops will focus on best practices that improve survival of released fish and how to get involved in the Council process, including Citizen Science projects.

May 7, 2024 | Bass Pro Shops Classroom | 10177 N. Kings Hwy | Myrtle Beach, SC

May 8, 2024 | Port Royal Maritime Center | 310 Okatie Hwy | Okatie, SC

May 29, 2024 | GA Southern University Armstrong Center | 13040 Abercorn Street | Savannah, GA

Registration is encouraged due to limited seating. Please register here. Additional workshops are planned in Florida and North Carolina in 2024.

Learn more about the BFP Master Volunteer Program by visiting the Council’s website.

Questions? Contact Ashley Oliver at

SAFMC Seminar Series: Electronic Self-Reporting Programs in Recreational Fisheries

Join in via webinar as the Council’s Seminar Series continues in May with a presentation on electronic self-reporting programs in U.S. marine recreational fisheries by staff from The Nature Conservancy. The presentation will include information on the “appscape” used to collect information from recreational fisheries and identify successes, challenges, and lessons learned.

The seminar series features presentations on scientific studies relevant to fisheries in South Atlantic federal waters. The seminars are conducted via webinar and available to the public. Following the presentation, members of the public have an opportunity to participate in discussions.

Looking for prior webinars? Each seminar presentation is recorded and available from the Council’s website. The Seminar Series has covered a broad range of topics, ranging from larval dispersal in Spawning Special Management Zones, artificial reefs, a history of the rock shrimp fishery, shark depredation, estimating release mortality in reef fishes, and wind development just to name a few. Check out the long list of topics!

Reeling in an amberjack.

SAFMC Citizen Science Programs Get Special Recognition

April is Citizen Science Month and the Council’s Citizen Science Program recently received well-deserved recognition for two of its projects! Learn more about the SAFMC Citizen Science Program and how you can get involved.

FISHstory and The White House

The SAFMC Citizen Science project FISHstory was highlighted for its success in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Report to Congress released this month. The report details federal citizen science efforts and included 17 NOAA and NOAA-affiliated programs.

In addition to the information included on NOAA projects, the report calls out four projects as examples of successful implementation, including FISHstory! The four projects are highlighted in the introduction to the report for providing benefits such as a cost effective approach and an “opportunity to educate and collaborate with the public.”

FISHstory uses historic fishing photos to better understand the species and size of fish caught by for-hire fisheries before the start of dedicated catch monitoring programs. Volunteers help identify and count fish in historic photos. Scientists can use this information to document the beginnings of the for-hire fishery here in the South AtlanticLearn more about FISHstory and see how you can become involved.

A collage of Citizen Science program projects.
A female diver in red patterned pants has her legs wide while holding a large underwater camera.

Fisheries with a SMILE

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program recently featured an article highlighting the SMILE (Size Matters: Innovative Length Estimates) Project, a collaborative citizen science effort that includes the SAFMC Citizen Science Program. SMILE involves citizen scientists using SCUBA gear to dive and obtain fish lengths using underwater laser mounted cameras. Fish lengths are an important source of information for fisheries managers when assessing the health of fish populations. Diver-deployed camera technology can better inform population assessments, particularly for data-limited species.

Fieldwork for the SMILE citizen science project is currently focused in the Florida Keys, with great success thus far. The feature article includes photos and video about SMILE and how this project is part of a world-wide marine sightings database involving divers. Visit the Council’s website for additional details.

Additional Snippets:

NOAA Fisheries Publishes Final 2023 Recreational Fishing Catch Estimates

NOAA Fisheries has published its final 2023 recreational fishing catch and effort estimates for the Atlantic and Gulf coast states and Hawaii. These estimates are derived from data collected from for-hire captains and recreational anglers through a suite of recreational fishing surveys. They help inform stock assessments and fisheries management decisions that aim to conserve our shared marine resources, while optimizing fishing opportunities. See the Newscast from NOAA Fisheries for details.

Mark Your Calendar

Keep track of meetings scheduled by the Council from the Meetings page of the website and register for meeting webinars as information becomes available. Register early and receive email reminders as the meeting date(s) approach!

April 24 – 25, 2024

Joint Shrimp and Deepwater Shrimp Advisory Panels Meeting

Charleston, SC

Meeting Information

May 7, 2024

Snapper Grouper Private Angler Advisory Panel Meeting

Via webinar

Meeting Information

May 8, 2024

Outreach and Communications Advisory Panel Meeting

Via webinar

Meeting Information

May 22, 2024

Citizen Science Operations Committee Meeting

Via webinar

Meeting Information

June 10-14, 2024

SAFMC June Meeting

Daytona Beach Shores, FL

Meeting information