We take the first few weeks of January to forecast and plan out what fishing is going to look like for the upcoming year. We make phone calls and send emails to our regular customers with the change in seasons and bag limits so that they can make their vacation plans and schedule annual fishing trips. Though nothing for the upcoming year has been written in stone, we expect the shortest seasons for many of our favorite species to date. What 2023 taught us is that you had better book your trip or plan your fishing for the opening of all seasons. Emergency closures are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
This reduction in catch limits is not just impacting the recreational and for hire sectors. Commercial limits have also taken a big hit, and 2024 will be no different. We are all feeling the effect of questionable data refuting what many of our weathered eyes see on a daily basis. Focusing on the big four species we target, red grouper, gag grouper, amberjack and red snapper, here is what we currently have and what we have heard is pending for next year.
Red grouper is slated to open on January 1st and run through the end of April. Remember that for February and March you are limited to inside the 20-fathom break to harvest. Red Grouper were also the 1st species in 2023 that were hit with an emergency closure. Though it’s not official, we have heard that after April 30th, they will most likely be protected for the remainder of 2024 which is a huge change to previous years. Gag grouper was another emergency closure in 2024. What was supposed to be a 70-day season was cut by a ⅓ to 43 days with very little notice. That is coming off what used to be a six months season, including the Winter months when it’s prime time gag grouper fishing. Our expectations for 2024 is a 20 to 45-day season opening in September, but I have heard talk of possibly just a two week season. For Amberjack, we had a whopping 24 days last year, August 1 through 24. They are looking at a similar season in 2024.
The only species that we may see an increase in fishing looks to be red snapper. At first glance, this sounds great. The rebuilding plan that started years back has been a huge success and there are plenty of these guys swimming around out there. On the flip side, are the long runs and significant fuel cost really worth it for just two fish per person? All we can hope is that their resurgence is a foreshadowing for the grouper and amberjack population. Being the eternal optimist, I see more than just a few weeks with fresh caught grouper dinners and Big Brian’s secretly famous fish dip in the years to come.
What’s for certain is that the sport of catching fish next year will most likely be fantastic. What you will be able to bring home; well, that may be a different experience.