Gag Grouper Season starts July 1st for most of Florida’s Gulf Coast
July 1st means recreational gag grouper season for us here in the Gulf (minus Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor, Jefferson and Monroe counties). Anglers can harvest 2 gags within a 4 grouper aggregate (gag, red, black, rockhind/redhind, scamp, yellowfin/yellow mouth) during the open season, which lasts until December 3rd. Gag groupers must be at least 22 inches total length to legally harvest. Don’t forget you need to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, a free add on to your fishing license if you are going to be targeting reef fish in federal or state waters. This requirement applies to all anglers including Florida residents age 65 or older who otherwise would not need a fishing license. Visit FWC for more information on specific regulations pertaining to gag grouper.
Speaking of gag grouper, did you know that gag groupers are born females but later can become males? Scientists believe that this transformation, a process referred as protogyny, is triggered when a grouper is the in an aggregation that are about to spawn and there are too few males in the population. Once a grouper changes from female to male, it’s permanent. Adults spawn in February and March in large offshore aggregates. Juvenile gag utilizes the shallow seagrass beds in high salinity areas within the (Charlotte Harbor) estuary during early stages of growth. Mangrove lined shorelines, seawalls, and jetties can also be a suitable habitat. Some people who have caught the juvenile gag in seagrass beds have called them ‘Grass Grouper’ mistakenly thinking they are a different species. The state record for a Gag Grouper caught is 80 lbs 6 oz.