South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

The South Atlantic Bite

Newsworthy Notes – April 27, 2023

Seasonal Regulation Changes Effective May 1st

Shallow water grouper season opens and other regulations change

Planning for your next trip offshore this spring? Beginning May 1st there are a few more species available to harvest in South Atlantic federal waters (greater than 3 nautical miles off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and the east coast of Florida).  

May 1st marks the beginning of the shallow-water grouper season, following the annual spawning season closure from January 1st through April 30th. The one exception is the Red Grouper season in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, which will open for harvest on June 1st. Check out the helpful guide Identifying Shallow Water Grouper, available through the Council’s Citizen Science project, SAFMC Release (see details below).

Man holds a gag grouper with a hook in its mouth.
Photo: Captain Mark Phelps

Other Regulation Changes Effective May 1st each year:

  • Greater Amberjack – Commercial season reopens. 
  • Blueline Tilefish – Recreational season opens with no minimum size limit; included in the 3-grouper aggregate bag limit.
  • Hogfish – Season opens in federal waters off the east coast of Florida with 1 fish per person per trip and 16” fork length minimum size limit.
  • Red Porgy – Recreational season opens with 1 fish per person/day or 1 per person/trip, whichever is more restrictive, and a 14” total length minimum size limit.
  • Snowy Grouper – Recreational season opens with 1 fish per vessel as part of a 3-grouper aggregate bag limit.

Other Snapper Grouper Federal Regulations

  • Species in the snapper grouper management complex (including those listed above) must be landed with heads and fins intact.
  • When fishing for snapper grouper species, a descending device is required to be onboard and readily available for use with a minimum of 16 ounces of weight and 60 feet of line.
  • The use of non-stainless steel hooks is required when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits. Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits north of 28 degrees N. latitude (near Melbourne, FL).

For a complete listing of federal regulations for species managed by the Council, visit the website at:

Fish Rules – Know Before You Go

Fishing regulations can be complicated. Fish Rules is an innovative way to understand complex fishing regulations. Download the free mobile app and have the latest regulations available with you no matter where you go.

Fish Rules provides regulations for federal and state waters from Maine to Texas to Hawaii. The app uses your phone’s GPS and calendar to show only the regulations that you need.

Out to sea with no signal? Manually select your fishing location to see relevant regulations. The app also provides photos for quick fish ID. There’s even a Fish Rules Commercial app. Learn more and download the app today!

Make a Difference in Your Snapper Grouper Fishery Through SAFMC Release!

The number of released fish is increasing in many South Atlantic fisheries – so it is becoming even more important to gather information about this part of the population. It is hard for traditional data collection programs that sample back at the dock to collect this information. Fishermen hold this on-the-water knowledge.

Join other anglers who are providing vital insight into the snapper grouper fishery in the South Atlantic by recording data on their released shallow water grouper and Red Snapper via SAFMC Release – a SAFMC citizen science project. Using the free mobile app SciFish, they’re sharing information such as fish length, depth caught, descending device use, shark predation, and optional location. Click the buttons below to learn more and get started.

Check out the updated advisory panel webpage to learn more and to access the online application. Apply now – and get involved!

Best Fishing Practices

The way you handle and release a fish makes a difference in whether that fish lives to reproduce or be caught another day. No one wants to see a floater! Release mortality is one of the biggest challenges facing fisheries management for the multi-species snapper grouper complex.

Learn how a few simple steps can make a big difference with the use of Best Fishing Practices. Visit the web page for a concise summary of regulations currently in place to help ensure the survival of released fish. There are helpful instructional videos, including how to identify barotrauma, when to use a descending device, and how to make your own descending device. Watch as an underwater video demonstrates the effectiveness of using a descending device on a Red Grouper. Take a few minutes to learn more and take BFP where ever you go!

The Clock is Ticking: Apply Now for Open Advisory Panel and Workgroup Seats

Applications due by May 1st

This Monday, May 1st is the deadline for applying for open seats on the South Atlantic Council’s advisory panels and System Management Plan Workgroup. The Council will consider applications during the Council’s June 12-16, 2023 meeting in St. Augustine, Florida.

Seat are currently open on the Habitat, Law Enforcement, Mackerel Cobia, Shrimp, and Snapper Grouper advisory panels as well as the System Management Plan Workgroup. Details are available in a SAFMC news release advertising the AP seats as well as two open seats on the Council’s System Management Plan Workgroup. Current members may also be eligible for reappointment.

Check out the updated advisory panel webpage to learn more and to access the online application. Apply now – and get involved!

SAFMC Seminar Series: Florida’s State Reef Fish Survey

Tuesday, May 9, 2023 | 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | Webinar registration

The Council will host a presentation from Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute staff on the State Reef Fish Survey. The presentation will include information on why the survey was created, how the survey is conducted, species that are included, and information on landings.

A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation. Members of the public will have the opportunity to participate in the discussion. The presentation is for informational purposes only and no management actions will be taken. Learn more about the SAFMC Seminar Series.

Additional Snippets:

NOAA Fisheries Produces Cumulative Recreational Fisheries Estimates to Improve Data Quality

NOAA Fisheries is taking measures to improve the quality of recreational fishing data. The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), the primary source of marine recreational fisheries data, is transitioning from producing estimates for catch and effort in 2-month increments, or waves, to producing cumulative estimates. The transition will increase sample sizes, thereby producing more reliable estimates that improve precision throughout the year. See the NOAA Fisheries NewsCast for details.

PBS Film – Nature: Treasure of the Caribbean

The year is 2013, in the waters of Belize and Guatemala. A desperate fisherman guns his small boat into the open ocean in search of fish. With engine trouble, the fisherman peers over the side of his boat. Below is an unchartered, massive crown of rocks and corals, teeming with life. The discovery marks a new chapter in understanding corals and the fish that need each other, and in saving reefs globally. Treasure of the Caribbean premiers this month and is available to stream online for free at, and

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!

May 9, 2023

SAFMC Seminar Series: Florida’s State Reef Fish Survey

Webinar Registration

May 15, 2023

Snapper Grouper Recreational Permitting and Reporting Tech AP Meeting

Webinar only

Meeting information

May 16-18, 2023

Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel Meeting

Town and Country Inn

Charleston, SC

Webinar Registration

May 23-25, 2023

Council Coordinating Committee Meeting

Key West, FL

June 12-16, 2023

Council Meeting

St. Augustine, FL

Meeting information