Groupers are among the most common reef fish popular in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida waters. Every grouper fishing season, recreational anglers from around the world come here to fish for their favorite species. Florida’s most common grouper species are the Red Grouper, Gag Grouper, and Black Grouper. Grouper fishing in Florida has specific open seasons, but the season varies by region and season. When preparing to go fishing, check the fishing regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Groupers are bottom-sea dwellers, and you should use fishing techniques like trolling, bottom fishing, spearfishing, and jigging. Always follow the catch and size limit regulations to ensure you are fishing sustainably.
Every grouper season, Florida attracts the most species of grouper. But when does fishing season for groupers begin or end here? This guide will help you understand when to catch and carry your grouper home and when to release them back into the water.
Grouper Season by Species in Florida
The fishing for groupers is open year-round in most Florida Keys. But if you want to keep your catch, the best time for grouper fishing is from May to December.
Anglers cannot keep their catch from January to May because most grouper species are spawning at this time. Recreational anglers can only catch groupers at this time if they release them back into the water.
If you’re targeting black grouper, the minimum size limit you’re supposed to target should be at least 24 inches in both Atlantic and Gulf waters.
Black grouper season is open year-round in the Gulf and closed from January to April in the Atlantic waters. Also, the aggregate bag limit is four per person in Gulf, but you can catch only one black grouper in the Atlantic region.
In most Florida Keys, anglers can catch Gag Groupers of a minimum size of 24 inches. The fishing season for the Gag Grouper varies in different counties.
All the counties in Florida are open for Gag fishing from June to December, except for Taylor, Jefferson, and Franklin, which open from April to June and from September to December.
The bag limit for counties in the Atlantic region is one Gag grouper for each angler, while those in the Gulf region are allowed two Gag Grouper per person.
Fishing for Red Grouper in the Florida Keys is open all year round as long as they are not less than 20 inches long. However, Fishing for Red Grouper in the Atlantic region is closed from January to April. Also, the daily bag limit in the Gulf region is two per person, while the limit in the Atlantic region is three per person.
Fishing for Scamps is open all year round in counties in the gulf regions. However, Parts of Florida Keys touching the Atlantic region are closed from January to late April.
You can fish for Scamps in the Atlantic and Gulf regions as long as the fishing window is open, but your catch should be at least 20 and 16 inches, respectively. Also, the aggregate bag limit for these Scamps is three pieces in the Atlantic and four in the Gulf region.
You can watch Luiza below catch a bunch of Gag grouper and Red grouper with Capt. Jimmy Nelson during grouper season in Florida for the “Livin the Dream ” TV show.
Here is the seasonal breakdown for grouper fishing.
This fishing season begins in January and ends in May. It’s during this season that most species of grouper are spawning.
Since they move in large groups, they are at risk of overharvesting. That’s why the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission only allows people to catch and release groupers back into the water.
Recreational fishing in most Florida Keys happens during this season. In spring, the weather transitions from sporadic cold to warmer temperatures.
This season mostly begins in March and ends in April, and you can only catch and release the groupers.
This is the most preferred grouper fishing season because the weather is warm in most parts of the Atlantic Ocean. The warm weather makes mature grouper migrate to deep waters because they don’t like the temperature fluctuations in shallow waters.
During this season, anglers in the Florida Keys are allowed to keep almost all grouper types. However, anglers are not allowed to keep Nassau and Goliath Grouper because they are being conserved.
When grouper fishing in the Florida Keys and the Key West, you’re supposed to follow the regulations to control grouper fishing. Here are the size limit and seasons for the most common types.
Best Places to Catch Grouper During the Season in Florida
Like most reel fish, grouper fishing happens all year round. However, the season you visit determines whether you’ll keep or release your catch back into the water.
If you’re targeting grouper fish during winter, the best place to look for them is in the Key West and the Hawk Channel. In these spots, you’ll likely get mature grouper such as the Goliath Grouper. Look for juvenile grouper on the shallower water because they are overly active during winter.
The best place to find grouper in the spring is in the deep-water structures. The uneven water temperature during this season pushes them to deeper waters.
During summer, you can look for grouper in all of Florida Key. They live at the bottom and like hiding around rocks and other structures.
Those seeking to catch grouper species in the fall should move to the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys. They like hiding around reefs and other man-made wrecks because the waters are calm.
Techniques for Catching Grouper in Florida
Grouper is a reef fish, and regulations require anglers to use the appropriate fishing gear. The most appropriate techniques for catching grouper include trolling, bottom fishing, spearfishing, and jigging.
This technique works best for anglers who want to cover a small surface area in shallow waters, using shallow diving plugs and strip combos to lure groupers. You can spice up your bait by adding large live bait or placing dead bait.
This fishing method works best for offshore and shallow waters and targets all marine reel fish that like to hide in deep waters. This method requires you to use heavier tackle that will withstand marine winds.
You can use this fishing method in most Florida Keys. To use this fishing method, you must be a skilled diver to prevent drowning. However you can still try using this technique, but you must be accompanied by an experienced professional.
Always carry a shorter spear gun because you’ll dive in rocky areas. Remember, you’re not allowed to use this fishing technique for Goliath and Nassau grouper.
Jigging is the most popular method for catching grouper and other species. This technique is easy to use and can be used for both shallow and bottom water dwellers.
Since most grouper fish are bottom dwellers, you can use metal jigs to lure them to your trap. Orange or pink-looking jigs work best in attracting most grouper species.
You can also attach live bait like octopus, squid, or sardines to attract them. Since the grouper is strong, ensure your hooks are bigger, and the line is strong.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires you to use the appropriate fishing gear when catching reef fish. This enhances the safe and sustainable harvesting of grouper.
Tips for a Safe and Sustainable Grouper Fishing in Florida
Grouper fishing in the Florida Keys is open year-round. However, there are certain seasons you’re allowed to carry your catch and some when you can only catch and release them back into the water to enhance sustainability.
If you plan to fish in the Florida Keys and the Key West, you should have a valid saltwater fishing license. Also, ensure you meet the recommended size and bag limit for the type you want to catch. In addition, if you catch Nassau and Goliath groupers, you will be required to release them.
Follow the regulations for grouper fishing to avoid legal penalties. For example, not following the bag limit and owning an undersized grouper could lead to 60 days jail term.
After taking home your catch, it’s advisable to clean and store it properly. Grouper is delicate, and mishandling its meat can lead to severe food poisoning.
Grouper fishing in Florida has specific open seasons, but the season varies by region and season. If you want to keep your catch, the best time for grouper fishing is from May to December.
However, there are seasons when people can only catch and release groupers back into the water. When fishing for different species of grouper, you’re allowed to use trolling, bottom fishing, spearfishing, and jigging as your fishing method.
Always follow all the regulations to promote a sustainable way of harvesting Groupers.