Are you able to keep up with the ever-changing regulations for saltwater fish? If you're like me, you probably question what species you're allowed to keep while you're out fishing.
For example, last weekend I joined Caleb and Kyle Grimes aboard the Legal Limit in pursuit of tasty hogfish. We landed such a variety of fish that multiple times I had to consult the fisheries management app to determine if what we just caught was legal to be kept.
I pride myself on being up to date with all the regulations, receiving newsletters and notifications about fisheries management. To add to the confusion, we fished right on the edge of the state and federal fishery line, where there are two separate sets of rules.
Further adding to the confusion, fish such as red grouper, triggerfish and amberjack were subject to "in-season closures" at the end of 2014, shortening their seasons in federal waters.
After I landed a 23-inch red grouper on 10-pound test, legal in state waters but closed federally, I painfully let it swim free after a great battle on light tackle because we were on the edge of the state-water line. The same went to the beautiful triggerfish and gag grouper we would land, letting them go to be caught in 2015.
Luckily, we landed eight legal-sized hogfish with plenty of porgies and mangrove snapper to fill up the fish box, making the trip a success in terms of a delicious dinner.
Now for 2015, the regulations are changing once again.
Notably, the aforementioned red grouper will most likely be changing from four fish to two fish per person when approved by the Gulf Council, but as of right now it is four red grouper per person. In February and March red grouper is closing in federal waters, but will remain open in state waters at that time. The minimum length is still 20 inches.
Amberjack are once again open and must be 30 inches to the fork with a one-per-person bag limit. Their season will close in June and July and possibly sooner, like what happened during 2014 in federal waters.
The same season and possible closure will apply for triggerfish, which are once again open, require a 14-inch minimum fork length and have a two-per-person bag limit.
Gag grouper will open July 1st with a closure set for December 3rd in federal waters and December 4th in state waters.
The best policy is to follow the more strict regulations if you are unaware of what is and is not in season. Check the GulfCouncil.org website the night before venturing for offshore species to stay up to date.