Red Grouper Regulations

Red Grouper

Red Grouper

Epinephelus morio

Managed by:

SAFMC

Fish Rules
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Physical description:

Red grouper are easily recognized by their color and by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. The fin has a long second spine and an unnotched membrane. Most epinepheline groupers have a notched dorsal spine membrane and a third spine longer than the second. The body is deep brownish-red overall, with occasional white spots on the sides. Tiny black specks dot the cheeks and operculum. The red grouper is most closely related to the Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, which has several vertical bars and blotches and is found more commonly on coral reefs in the West Indies.


Biological description:

Red grouper are distributed from North Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. The species is most abundant along Florida's east and west coasts, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. It inhabits ledges, crevices, and caverns of rocky limestone reefs and  lower-profile, live-bottom areas in waters 10 to 40 feet deep. The red grouper is a protogynous hermaphrodite and females are capable of reproducing at 4 years of age. Spawning takes place from March to July. Females usually release an average of 1.5 million pelagic eggs that remain at the surface for 30-40 days before settling to the bottom. The maximum age of red grouper is 25 years, with older fish reaching a size of 32.5 inches and 25 pounds. Red grouper usually ambush their prey and swallow it hole, preferring crabs, shrimp, lobster, octopus, squid and fish that live close to reefs.


A Fishery Performance Report is available for this species - Click Here!

 

Recreational Regulations

Recreational Season: North Carolina & South Carolina 

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

  • Open Season: June 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, except for Red Grouper in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed through May 31.

 

Recreational Season: Georgia & East Florida

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

  • 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, except for Red Grouper in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed through May 31.

Recreational Bag and Size Limits

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

  • Bag Limit: 3 fish per person per day

 

 

  • Minimum Size Limit: 20-inches 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

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Click here to see some "Frequently Asked Questions."

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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: North Carolina & South Carolina

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

  • Open Season: June 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, except for Red Grouper in federal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed through May 31.

Commercial Season: Georgia & East Florida

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

  • 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, except for Red Grouper in federal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed through May 31.

Commercial Trip and Size Limits

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

  • Trip Limit:​ 200 lbs gutted weight

 

  • Minimum Size Limit: 20-inches 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 Red 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