Gulf Stock Characteristics

SEDAR 61, 2019

Natural mortality rate (M):  0.144/year­

Reproductive maturity:  50% of females mature at ~11.5 inches (29.2 cm) fork length (FL); age 2.2 years

Maximum age:  29 years

Maximum weight: 50.7 lbs (23 kg) whole weight

Maximum length: 41.7 inches (106 cm) FL

Discard mortality:

  • 41.5% comm. longline
  • 19% comm. handline
  • 10% trap
  • 11.6% recreational

Current Federal Regulations:


    • Stock ACL –  4,160,000 pounds gutted weight
    • Commercial ACL –  3,160,000 pounds gutted weight
    • Recreational ACL –  1,000,000 pounds gutted weight
    • Recreational ACT –  920,000 pounds gutted weight


    • 76% commercial
    • 24% recreational


  • Fishing season: Closed February 1 through March 31 beyond 20 fathoms (120 ft or 36.6 m), Open in January and April 1 through December 31.
  • Size Limit: Minimum size limit is 20 inches (50.8 cm) total length
  • Bag Limit: 2 per person within the 4 grouper per person aggregate bag limit
  • Permit/License:  State issued recreational license or Federal charter/headboat permit for reef fish
  • Gear:  Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits. At least one dehooking device is required and must be used to remove hooks.


    • Fishing Season:  red grouper is managed under an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. Anyone commercially fishing for red grouper must possess allocation and follow established protocols.
    • Minimum Size Limit: 18 inches total length
    • Permit:  Commercial vessel permit for reef fish is required. Additionally, an eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement required to use bottom longline for Gulf reef fish in the federal waters east of 85°30′ longitude.
    • Gear:  Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits. At least one dehooking device is required and must be used to remove hooks.

Shallow-water Grouper Closure (Map of the 20-fathom break)

Subpart B – Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico – §622.34 Seasonal and area closures designed to protect Gulf reef fish

(d) Seasonal closure of the recreational sector for shallow-water grouper (SWG). The recreational sector for SWG, in or from the Gulf EEZ, is closed each year from February 1 through March 31, in the portion of the Gulf EEZ seaward of rhumb lines connecting, in order, the points in the following table. During the closure, the bag and possession limit for SWG in or from the Gulf EEZ seaward of the following rhumb lines is zero.


Red grouper is common eastern Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) reef fish that can be found from shallow reefs out to depths exceeding 390 ft (120 m).  It is easily identified by its red/orange/brown coloration with mottled white and gray splotches.  Red grouper in the Gulf are considered not overfished and not experiencing overfishing (SEDAR 61 2019); however, the stock is very susceptible to episodic mortality from red tide, and may have experienced substantial mortality from red tide in 2018.

Life History and Distribution:

Red grouper is commonly caught in Florida waters from Panama City to the Florida Keys along the inner to mid-continental shelf, and is rare in the western Gulf.  The species inhabits perforated hardbottom such as limestone reef caverns and crevices.  Juveniles live in shallow-water nearshore reefs until they become sexually mature and move offshore.  Red grouper is a protogynous hermaphrodite, transitioning from female to male at older ages, and forms harems for spawning.  Age and size at sexual transition from female to male is ~11.4 years and 27.9 inches (70.8 cm) FL.  Red grouper spawn from February until mid-July with peak spawning occurring during March through June (SEDAR 61, 2019).

Landings History

(SEDAR 61, 2019)