New Gear Requirements For Snapper And Grouper Fishing

Descending devices, special hook regulations for offshore anglers take effect July 15.

SCDNR Press Release | July 6, 2020

To encourage best fishing practices and improve fish survival, NOAA Fisheries recently announced new gear requirements that will apply to offshore anglers from North Carolina through the Florida East Coast.

Beginning July 15, 2020, anglers targeting snapper or grouper species, including in Georgia and South Carolina, will be required to have a descending device on board and readily available for use. Additionally, the new rule requires the use of “non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks” when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits in Atlantic coastal waters.

More than 50 fish species of saltwater fish fall under the umbrella of the snapper-grouper complex, a diverse collection of large offshore fish that are sought-after table fare and critical to a healthy ocean ecosystem. Some of the most commonly encountered snapper-grouper species are black seabass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, red snapper, gag grouper and spadefish.

Many snapper-grouper species live a long time, grow slowly, and reach maturity at a late age—all of which makes them vulnerable to overfishing and makes each adult fish valuable to the overall population.

Descending devices (two varieties of which are shown at center) will soon become a required part of snapper-grouper anglers’ tackle boxes. Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks are now also required.

Because these fish are often pulled from deep waters, they’re at high risk of barotrauma, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when fish undergo rapid pressure changes. Barotrauma, often accompanied by bulging eyes and bloated stomachs, can be a death sentence for caught-and-released fish.

Fortunately, barotrauma can be reversed through the use of a simple tool called a descending device, which helps anglers return a fish to the deeper waters from which it was caught. Descending devices can range from sophisticated, commercially available instruments to a DIY weighted hook.

For more information about these changes, please read NOAA Fisheries’ full bulletin.

Additional details regarding best fishing practices and descending device requirements are available here.

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