South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Grunt, Tomtate

Grunt, Tomtate

Grunt, Tomtate

Haemulon aurolineatum
Recreational
All areas are open for recreational fishing.
Commercial
All areas are open for commercial fishing.

One of the smallest of the grunts, tomtate are not highly regarded by fishermen. However, the species is an important food source for larger fish-eating reef fishes. Often seen by divers, tomtates are approachable and serve as a warning when larger fish are near by. They often tighten their schools and move away from approaching predators. The tomtate is silver white all over with a yellow-brown stripe running the length of the body and ending as a black blotch at the base of the caudal fin. This spot is also evident in most juvenile grunts, and may be lost by older fish. The inside of its mouth is bright red.

The tomtate is distributed from Cape Hatteras to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Central American coast and the Caribbean. Preferred habitat is rough bottom areas, which are scattered over the otherwise smooth plain of the continental shelf. Tomtates are seldom in waters less than 54°F. Females may mature when as small as 5.5 inches and males as small as 6.5 inches. All fish over the age of 5 are capable of reproducing. Spawning takes place in the spring. Tomtate may grow to be 12 inches and 1 pound. They feed on small, bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

Regulations

NC, SC, GA, FL

  • Season is currently open.
  • Notes: 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

    No minimum size limit. No bag limit. Must be landed with head and fins intact. If you are bringing fish back to the U.S. from the Bahamas by water, please see Bringing fish back from the Bahamas.

    ———- 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.

    For more information, see: SAFMC Tomtate Regulations

    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.

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