Groupers, snappers and scallops, oh my

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Captain Blythe

Special to the Pioneer

Gag grouper, red snapper and scalloping seasons are in full swing. The weather has not been the anglers’ friend in these first few weeks. Heavy rains and high winds have plagued the gulf waters since the last week of June.

The gulf waters in the designated harvesting zone for scallops has taken on a lot of fresh water resulting in stained waters and lots of floating grass. This will keep the scallops a little further out and in deeper and saltier water.

Reports all along the harvest area, from Carrabelle to Homosassa, have the scallops in six to eight feet of water. Harvesters willing to dive in and out of thunderstorms and winds have been able to limit out. The choppy waters make visibility more difficult, but the visibility under water is still good once you get out past the tainted waters.

Gulf gag grouper season opened July 1st and will run through Dec. 3rd in all areas excluding Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor Counties including Apalachicola Bay, Indian Pass, Gulf County and all waters of the Steinhatchee River including Dixie County waters. These counties open season was from Apr. 1st through June 30th.

The FWC will consider in a future Commission meeting eliminating the Feb. and March shallow water grouper including black, red, yellowfin, yellowmouth and scamp. 

The current bag limit on gag grouper is two per angler with a maximum of four total including aggregate (all species listed above excluding gag).

The size limit for gag and black grouper is 22 inches total length and 20 inches total length for red, yellowfin, yellowmouth and scamp.

Reports from Homosassa showed gag being caught inshore in water depths as low as 14 to 16 feet but most of the action is being found further offshore in depths of 30 feet and more.

Captain John Blouse with Hooked Up Charters out of Cedar Key reported having a very successful trip in the Middle Grounds catching all species of grouper as well as red snapper and limiting out on all.

The Middle Grounds host very deep waters with natural reefs and rock ledges to fish. Water depths will range from 60- 80 feet to over 100 feet in depth and are located about 80 to 100 miles offshore. The more structure and the more dramatic the drop offs the better the fishing.

Inshore fishing has been productive as well as Captain Al Hammond out of Chassahowitzka (just south of Homosassa) reported catching trout, reds, black drum and one really nice tripletail. Live shrimp and jigs have done well both on popping corks and free lining. 

With scalloping season in full swing the inshore waters along the flats will be filled with boats and dive flags. Be extra careful of divers and small boats as you run the inshore waters. Divers are required to stay within fifty feet of a dive flag but often will drift well beyond that, so pay close attention to the waters you are in and note the position of dive flags.

Please obey all state and local laws and remember to catch and release. Good luck catching.