The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will soon accept applications for the first harvest of goliath grouper in state waters since 1990. Those interested can apply anytime from Oct. 15-30, 2022, for the upcoming 2023 season, which will be a highly regulated limited harvest.
This unique recreational opportunity is possible through successful conservation efforts by state and federal agencies over the past three decades that aided goliath grouper population rebuilding following years of overfishing. The limited-entry harvest will allow additional access to a fishery that has been catch-and-release only since 1990 by issuing permits via random-draw lottery. The cost to apply is $10 plus fees and permit lottery applications will be available online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
Details for this limited, highly regulated harvest include:
- Total recreational harvest of up to 200 goliath per year, with a maximum of 50 from Everglades National Park.
- A goliath harvest permit and tag, issued via a random-draw lottery ($150 for residents, $500 for non-residents, plus fees) are required to participate. Permits and tags are non-transferable and no exemptions apply.
- A limit of one fish per person per open season with permit and tag.
- An open season from March 1 through May 31.
- Hook-and-line as the only allowable gear.
- A slot limit of 24-36 inches total length.
- Post-harvest requirements including proper application of the tag, reporting harvest data and submitting a fin clip for genetic analysis.
- Harvest will be permitted in all state waters except those of Martin County south through the Atlantic coast of the Keys, all of the St. Lucie River and its tributaries, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
- Harvest will continue to be prohibited in federal waters.
“The highly regulated, limited take of goliath grouper is an exciting and unique opportunity to provide access to this resource after decades of closure and we believe limited access is sustainable,” said FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood. “We also look forward to collecting the post-harvest data to help guide future management decisions for this species.”
This opportunity is intended to provide additional access to this fishery while balancing the values of various stakeholder groups. Adult goliath grouper will continue to be prohibited from harvest statewide as well as goliath in heavy dive ecotourism areas. This limited harvest is not intended to address fishing depredation concerns.