Gag Grouper Regulations

Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper

Mycteroperca microlepis

Managed by:

SAFMC, GMFMC

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Physical description:

Gag grouper have long, compressed bodies and 11 to 14 rays in the anal fins. Coloration is highly variable in gag and changes with the size of the fish. Large gag are dark brownish-gray above and paler below, with traces of dark wavy markings on the sides. Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides. The scamp, M. phenax, and black grouper, M. bonaci, closely resemble the gag and often occur in the same habitat. Gag have deeply notched preopercles, distinguishing them from black grouper.


Biological description:

The gag grouper is the most widely distributed grouper in the region, with adults present from North Carolina to Brazil over low- and high-profile hard bottom in waters 60-500 feet deep. The species is found in the Gulf of Mexico but not in the West Indies. Young gag inhabit estuaries from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral. Spawning takes place in February off the coast of the Carolinas and in January through March in the Gulf of Mexico. Gag are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they begin life as females; however, after a few years of spawning, some gag groupers change sex to become males. 50% of females mature at 24" Total Length (TL) and 3 years of age. All fish less than 35" TL are female, while most gag over 45"TL are males.

Gag may live for 26 years and grow to be 58 inches in length and weigh up to 81 pounds. Gag often congregate around rocky ledges and swim in small groups. They are predators of round scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid.

Note: Gag are often confused with black grouper. One distinguishing characteristic is based on the color of the fin margins. The caudal (tail) and anal fins of the gag have white margins, while the black grouper does not.


Recreational Regulations

Recreational Season:

The following regulations apply to Gag Grouper in federal waters (3-200 nautical miles) off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida.

  • CLOSED
  • Open Season: May 1 - December 31
    • Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the recreational Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met. If an in-season closure were to be announced by NOAA Fisheries, all relevant information will be included here.

 

  • Annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure: January 1 - April 30

 

Recreational Bag and Size Limits

  • Bag Limit: 1 fish per person per day
    • Note: no more than 1 Gag Grouper or 1 Black Grouper (not combined) per person per day

 

  • Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit: 3 grouper/tilefish per person per day

 

  • Minimum Size Limit: 24-inch total length
  •  

The following species are included in the Shallow-Water Grouper Complex:

These species are subject to an Annual Spawning Season Closure January 1 - April 30, except for red grouper in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed through May 31st.

Allowable gear includes vertical hook-and-line, including hand line and bandit gear, and spearfishing gear without rebreathers.

 

Dehooking Tool Requirement:

  • Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use dehooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.
    • At least one dehooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper-grouper with minimum damage.
    • The hook removal device must be constructed to allow the hook to be secured and the barb shielded without re-engaging during the removal process.
    • The dehooking end must be blunt, and all edges rounded. The device must be of a size appropriate to secure the range of hook sizes and styles used in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery.

 

Descending Device Requirement:

  • Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper-grouper species;

 

  • Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.
    • The descending device attaches to the fish’s mouth or is a container that will hold the fish.  The device MUST be capable of releasing the fish automatically, by the actions of the operator of the device, or by allowing the fish to escape on its own.
    • Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing.

 

Hook Requirements:

All hooks, regardless of type, must be constructed of non-stainless steel. 

North of 28º North Latitude:

  • The use of Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks is required when
    fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits north of 28º north latitude.  
  • A circle hook is defined as a fishing hook designed and manufactured so that the point is turned perpendicularly back to the shank to form a generally circular, or oval, shape.

 

South of 28º North Latitude:

  • The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.  

 

Click here for helpful resources, including:

  • best fishing practices tips
  • information on hook types
  • how-to videos

NOTE: All other recreational gear requirements apply (see other tabs for details).

 

Permit Requirements

A Federal For-Hire Permit is Required

  • Click Here to Learn More
  • When harvest of this species closes in federal waters, vessels with a federal charter/for-hire permit cannot retain this species in state or federal waters.
  • Beginning January 4, 2021, all vessels with a federal charter/headboat permit for Atlantic coastal migratory pelagics, Atlantic dolphin and wahoo, or South Atlantic snapper-grouper will be required to electronically report their catch. Learn more.

 

Sea Turtle Release Gear Requirements

  • All species must be landed with head and fins intact
  • Recreational Bag Limit sales are prohibited 

 

Fish Rules Mobile App

Mobile App - Fish Rules

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see some "Frequently Asked Questions."

DOWNLOAD for Android
DOWNLOAD for Apple 

 

Recreational Regulations Summary

Click the image for a summary of regulations for some snapper grouper species

 

Current Fishery Closures

Click the image for a summary of current fishery closures

Commercial Regulations

Commercial Permit:

Commercial Season:

The following regulations apply to Gag Grouper in federal waters (3-200 nautical miles) off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida.

  • CLOSED
  • Open Season: May 1 - December 31
    • Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the commercial Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met. If an in-season closure were to be announced by NOAA Fisheries, all relevant information will be included here.

 

  • Annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure: January 1 - April 30

Commercial Trip and Size Limits

 

  • Trip Limit:​ 1,000 lbs (gutted weight) until 75% of the annual catch limit is met or is projected to be met. Then the trip limit is 500 lb gutted weight (590 lb whole weight).

 

  • Minimum Size Limit: 24-inch total length
  •  

Allowable gear includes vertical hook-and-line, including hand line and bandit gear, and spearfishing gear without rebreathers. 

 

Dehooking Tool Requirement:

  • Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use dehooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.
    • At least one dehooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper-grouper with minimum damage.
    • The hook removal device must be constructed to allow the hook to be secured and the barb shielded without re-engaging during the removal process.
    • The dehooking end must be blunt, and all edges rounded. The device must be of a size appropriate to secure the range of hook sizes and styles used in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery.

 

Descending Device Requirement:

  • Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper-grouper species;

 

  • Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.
    • The descending device attaches to the fish’s mouth or is a container that will hold the fish.  The device MUST be capable of releasing the fish automatically, by the actions of the operator of the device, or by allowing the fish to escape on its own.
    • Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing.

 

Hook Requirements:

All hooks, regardless of type, must be constructed of non-stainless steel. 

North of 28º North Latitude: 

  • The use of Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks is required when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits north of 28º north latitude.
  • A circle hook is defined as a fishing hook designed and manufactured so that the point is turned perpendicularly back to the shank to form a generally circular, or oval, shape.  

 

South of 28º North Latitude:

  • The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.  

 

Click here for helpful resources, including:

  • best fishing practices tips
  • information on hook types
  • how-to videos

 

Sea Turtle Release Gear Requirements

Annual Catch Limit

This species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit (ACL).

After the commercial annual catch limit for Gag Grouper is met, all purchase and sale is prohibited and harvest and/or possession is limited to the recreational bag limit. This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed, and sold prior to the annual catch limit being reached and held in cold storage by a dealer. 

Click here for details 

The following species are included in the Shallow-Water Grouper Complex:

These species are subject to an Annual Spawning Season Closure January 1 - April 30, except for red grouper in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed through May 31st.

  • All species must be landed with head and fins intact

Fish Rules Mobile App

Mobile App - Fish Rules

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see some "Frequently Asked Questions."

DOWNLOAD for Android
DOWNLOAD for Apple 

 

Commercial Regulations Summary

Click the image for a summary of regulations for some snapper grouper species

 

Current Fishery Closures

Click the image for a summary of current fishery closures

  •