Gag grouper fishing for us finally begins! Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties are open for gags from 1 April to 30 June, then again 1 September to 31 December. Florida State and Federal waters open 1 June to 31 Dec for the remaining Gulf counties. This is a lot to keep up on, but it is important to do so. There are so many openings and closures that, if I’m not consulting with my legal team, I will likely get the dates wrong. The sure way to always be on top of the regulations is to consult the website, MyFWC.com, and get it straight from the source.
The overall length for both State and Federal gag grouper is 24 inches from tip to tail. You are allowed to compress the tail for total length. The take is 2 per person, but charter captains and crew are not allowed to possess any. County waters are 9 miles from the dedicated shoreline. This can be misleading in our area since the distance is measured from the Gulf side of Dog Island and then from the mainland in what appears as a scallop pattern. Consult your charts to make sure you are in the right place. It’s also a State requirement to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. This is done when you purchase the State saltwater fishing license. We all asked why this is necessary and the answer from FWC is that there has been so much concern about the quota numbers that a system of reporting can provide better data…makes sense to me.
Gags can be hard to find sometimes and there are a lot of techniques to catch them. If you talk to 50 fishermen there will be 50 different ways to rig. The tried and true method is dropping a LY or some other dead bait with a hook and sinker. Remember that for all Gulf reef fish taken on baited hook, you must use a circle hook and have a venting tool on board. This does not apply to deep jigs and plugs.
The other great fish that is migrating into our waters is the Pompano. April can be the start of some spectacular inshore action on these good eating and powerful fish. Jigs tipped with sand fleas or shrimp are a sure thing when casted in the surf at the edge of the sand bar. As the water continues to warm cobia and kings will start to show up in big numbers. We’ll be talking about them next month.
Good Luck out there and be Safe.
CAPT. CHESTER REESE
Natural World Charters