South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Grouper, Wreckfish

Grouper, Wreckfish

Polyprion americanus
Recreational
All areas are closed for recreational fishing.
Commercial
All areas are open for commercial fishing.

Wreckfish are a bass-like species. They are bluish grey on the back and paler with a silvery sheen on the belly. Their fins are blackish brown. Juveniles have black blotches on their head and body. Wreckfish have a big head with a big mouth and a rough bony ridge across the upper part of the gill cover.

Wreckfish are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Grand Banks, Newfoundland, to La Plata River, Argentina, and in the eastern Atlantic Ocean from Norway to South Africa. They migrate throughout the North Atlantic during their life cycle. Although they’re found all along the U.S. East Coast, most of the commercial fishery operates over the Charleston Bump, located 80 to 100 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina.

In general, wreckfish live in water ranging from 140 feet up to 3,300 feet deep. In the first several years of their life, they’re found in surface waters, often near floating debris. As adults, wreckfish prefer steep, rocky bottoms and deep reefs, which provide food and shelter. They’re often found near caves and overhangs.

Wreckfish are large predators in the dynamic food chain of the Charleston Bump. The Charleston Bump deflects the Gulf Stream offshore, causing upwelling of nutrient-rich water that supports the growth and production of phytoplankton (tiny plants), and the zooplankton (tiny animals) that feed on phytoplankton. Fish and squid living in the water column travel toward the surface at night to feed on the zooplankton. During the day, these fish return to the deep to avoid predators and digest their meal in the dark, cooler waters where wreckfish live. Wreckfish lurk in caves and under overhangs on the Bump and come out to feed on these fish and squid migrating during the day. There are no known predators of wreckfish.

Regulations

NC, SC, GA, FL

  • Season is currently closed.
  • Season Closed: September 01, 2022 – June 30, 2023
  • 1 Bag Limit
  • 1 Vessel Limit
  • Notes:

    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. Get more information at Best Fishing Practices Webpage

    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.

    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

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