Florida Keys Fishing Rule Changes For January 1

There are many fishing regulations taking effect January 1. Below are some that affect Florida Keys Fishing from the FWC.

Seasonal grouper closure starts Jan. 1 in Atlantic, Monroe County waters

Florida Keys Fishing Black Grouper
Black Grouper

Several species of grouper will close to recreational and commercial harvest starting Jan. 1 in Florida state waters of the Atlantic, including Monroe County. This seasonal closure includes gag, black, red, yellowmouth, and yellowfin grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby. State waters in the Atlantic are from shore out to 3 nautical miles.

The harvest of these species of grouper in Atlantic state waters will remain closed through April 30, reopening May 1. The harvest closure was established to ensure the long-term sustainability of Atlantic grouper species.

A similar closure will also occur in federal waters of the Atlantic.

Grouper information, including Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico grouper regulations, is available online. Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing” then “Recreational Regulations” and “Groupers.”

Mutton snapper management changes effective Jan. 1

Florida Keys Fishing Mutton Snapper
Mutton Snapper.

Several mutton snapper management changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2017. These changes were approved at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) September meeting.

Starting Jan. 1, the following changes will be in effect:

  • Recreational, commercial, importation and sale minimum size limits will be 18 inches in all state waters.
  • Recreational bag limit will be five fish per person within the 10-fish snapper aggregate bag limit in all state waters.
  • Commercial trip limit will be five fish per person, per day or per trip from April through June in Atlantic state waters (this will replace the prior May through June commercial trip limit that was effective for all state waters).
  • A 500-pound commercial trip limit for the remainder of the year (July through March) in Atlantic state waters.

Public input from several workshops in February and August 2016 was considered by the FWC when making these changes.

Though mutton snapper is not overfished or undergoing overfishing, the 2015 stock assessment indicated that the population is smaller than previously estimated. Atlantic federal fishery managers recently approved measures that would make Atlantic federal regulations similar to the recent state changes. Gulf federal fishery managers are also considering making similar measures for Gulf federal waters. These changes are intended to prevent harvest from exceeding the planned federal quotas, or number of fish that can be harvested.

New barracuda size limits for south Florida effective Jan. 1

Florida Keys Fishing great barracuda
Great Barracuda

Starting Jan. 1, new recreational and commercial size limits for barracuda will be effective in state and federal waters off Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties only.

These changes were adopted at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) November meeting in St. Petersburg and include:

  • A recreational and commercial slot limit of 15 to 36 inches fork length.
  • Allowing the harvest of one fish larger than 36 inches per person or vessel per day, whichever is less.

“Change starts with the people that care about the resource. South Florida stakeholders saw an issue in their area, and it is through their actions and conservation ethics that these reasonable management changes were brought about. For that, I am thankful,” said FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood.

In recent years, stakeholders in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys who fish and dive have voiced concerns about seeing declines in barracuda numbers.

Barracuda data is limited due to their complex life history and behaviors; however, there has been a declining trend in the number of barracuda observed during underwater surveys conducted in the Keys in recent years, as well as a declining trend in the average size of those barracuda.

A slot limit will contribute to barracuda conservation by eliminating harvest pressure on the youngest, most vulnerable fish while also conserving larger fish, which are responsible for the vast majority of reproduction.

The FWC also addressed concerns for this species in 2015 when they set recreational and commercial bag limits for barracuda in south Florida of two fish per person and six fish per vessel.

Staff will continue to monitor barracuda through data collected during FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute underwater surveys and ongoing recreational and commercial catch data collection. Recreational anglers can report their catches using data-reporting programs like the Snook and Gamefish Foundation’s iAngler app and Angler Action website.

For information on barracuda, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Barracuda.”

If you are unsure of the Florida Keys Fishing regulations visit  http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/