The annual winter closed season on shallow-water groupers begins Jan. 1 and runs until May 1. Red and Black, two Florida Keys species that are targeted by anglers, are among the fish going off-limits. The closure covers federal and state waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including Monroe County.
During this closure, anglers can harvest grouper in open federal waters of the Gulf and return to port in Monroe County by traveling through closed state waters of the Atlantic as long as the vessel proceeds directly to port without stopping to fish.
Other species not allowed to be harvested are gag, yellowmouth, yellowfin, tiger, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney and graysby. Some of the species are believed to be overfished. Others are protected to limit accidental harvest.
Keys recreational and commercial fishermen have protested the closure during the busy winter season but efforts to modify the regulations have not progressed.
“The harvest closure was established to ensure the long-term sustainability of Atlantic grouper species by protecting them during their spawning season,” said a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman.
Deep Water Groupers in the Florida Keys
These species are not included in the above closure: snowy, warsaw, yellowedge, speckled hind.