**Gulf of Mexico Grouper Season to Close February 1 **
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) reminds anglers that the recreational shallow-water grouper fishery will close from February 1 through March 31. In Florida, several species of grouper, including black, red, yellowfin, scamp, yellowmouth, rock hind and red hind will close to recreational take from Feb. 1 through March 31 in Gulf state waters, excluding Monroe County (the Florida Keys).
This past November, the Gulf Council voted to eliminate the current February 1 through March 31 shallow-water grouper closed season shoreward of the 20 fathom break. The new rule has not yet been implemented and is awaiting approval by the Secretary of Commerce. If approved, recreational catches of red grouper, black grouper, scamp, yellowfin grouper, and yellowmouth grouper will be permitted all year unless fishing beyond 20 fathoms. Beyond 20 fathoms, the February 1 through March 31 recreational closed season remains in effect.
In Florida state waters, gag grouper has a separate season from other Gulf of Mexico groupers and is currently closed to take. A proposed 2013 gag grouper season in state waters will be discussed at the February Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting in Orlando. In federal waters, gag grouper (which is also part of the shallow-water grouper complex) will remain closed until July 1, and will close when the annual catch target is met.
Snook Season Reopening on Atlantic Coast Only
The recreational take season for snook in Florida reopens on Feb. 1 on Florida’s Atlantic coastal and inland waters. The season is open through May 31.
In the Atlantic, anglers may keep one snook between 28 and 32 inches total length per day. Fishermen targeting snook must have a snook permit as well as a saltwater license unless they are exempt from having a license. Using snatch hooks and spears is prohibited, and it is illegal to buy or sell snook.
Keeping snook remains closed in all of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico state waters, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County, through Aug. 31. Anglers may still catch and release snook during the closure, but the FWC encourages everyone to handle and release these fish carefully to help ensure their survival upon release.