South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Grouper, Black

Grouper, Black

Mycteroperca bonaci
Recreational
All areas are open for recreational fishing.
Commercial
All areas are open for commercial fishing.

Coloration is highly variable and changes with the size of the fish. Brownish gray in color with dark worm-like markings on sides; strong serrated spur at bottom margin of preopercle, less noticeable in large specimens; fins dark, with anal and caudal having white margin; often confused with gag grouper; most noticeable differences are brassy spots on black grouper; tail of gag is slightly concave, black grouper’s tail is square; gag has white margin on anal and caudal fins, black does not; under 10 pounds, gag’s spur on preopercle is distinctive, where black is gently rounded.

Biological description is similar to gag grouper.

This species is one of 10 grouper included in the shallow water grouper complex, which can be tricky to differentiate. Check out the Shallow Water Grouper Species ID Guide for photos and tips on how to identify these species.

Regulations

NC, SC, GA, FL

  • Season is currently open.
  • Season Closed: January 01, 2024 – April 30, 2024
  • Season Closed: January 01, 2025 – April 30, 2025
  • 3 Aggregate Limit
  • 1 Bag Limit
  • 2 Vessel Limit
  • Min. Size: 24 in Total Length
  • Additional Licenses Required: Beginning July 1, 2020, anglers intending to land this species in Florida are required to sign up as a Florida State Reef Fish Angler if they fish from a private recreational boat and are 16 years of age and older. To sign up, call 1-888-347-4356.
  • Notes:

    Private recreational vessel limit for black grouper of 2 fish per vessel per day not to exceed the daily bag limit of 1 fish per person per day, whichever is more restrictive. 

    A for-hire recreational vessel limit for black grouper of 2 fish per vessel per trip not to exceed the daily bag limit of 1 fish per person per day, whichever is more restrictive.

    The black grouper bag limit for captain and crew on a for-hire vessel with a Federal for-hire snapper-grouper permit is zero.

    Must be landed with head and fins intact. A descending device is required on board all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper and grouper species in federal waters of the South Atlantic. The descending device must be readily available for use and attached to at least 16 ounces of weight and at least 60 feet of line.

    This species is part of the shallow water grouper spawning season closure: January 1 through April 30, except for red grouper harvested in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, which remain closed until June 1. Shallow-water Grouper Complex: gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, and yellowmouth grouper.

    If you are bringing fish back to the U.S. from the Bahamas by water, please see Bringing fish back from the Bahamas.

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    Federally Permitted Charter/Headboats:

    • If a federally permitted vessel fishing in federal waters catches a species that is closed to harvest in federal waters, the vessel is not allowed to retain that fish.
    • If a federally permitted vessel fishing in state waters catches a species that is closed to harvest in federal waters but open in state waters, the vessel is not allowed to retain that species.
    • If a federally permitted vessel fishing in federal waters catches a species that is closed to harvest in state waters but open to harvest in federal waters, they may retain that fish if they do not stop to fish in state waters when returning to port. All gear must be stowed.

    Federally Permitted Charter/Headboats must have the following on board:

    • the 2019 version of the NMFS document titled “Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release with Minimal Injury” (document may be electronic).
    • NMFS sea turtle handling and release guidelines placard
    • Required release and handling gears

    See Snapper Grouper Sea Turtle and Smalltooth Sawfish Release Gear Requirements for more information.

    For more information on management of South Atlantic federal fisheries, please visit SAFMC or NOAA Fisheries.

    Learn how to help more released fish survive and share what you’re seeing on the water by visiting the Best Fishing Practices and SAFMC Release webpages.

    To see commercial regulations, download Fish Rules Commercial App for iOS devices or Android devices.

  • Gear Description: Allowable gear includes vertical hook-and-line, including hand line and bandit gear, and spearfishing gear without rebreathers. When fishing for or possessing snapper grouper species in federal waters of the South Atlantic, the following regulations apply: (1) Use of a dehooking tool is required. (2) The use of non-stainless steel hooks is required when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits. In waters North of 28-degrees N. latitude, the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks is required when fishing for snapper grouper species using hook-and-line gear with natural baits. (3) A descending device is required on board all vessels and must be readily available for use (attached to at least 16 ounces of weight and at least 60 feet of line). See below for more details.

Amendments in progress

  • Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 36

    Consider revisions to the recreational vessel limits for gag and black grouper and stowage requirements for black sea bass pots equipped with on-demand gear while transiting closed areas.

    Public hearing
  • Snapper Grouper Amendment 46

    Addresses private recreational reporting and permitting.

    Public hearing

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