BRADENTON – Grey or Mangrove snapper are one of the most sought after recreational fish in southwest Florida — they will take a variety of baits, are good eating, and are relatively easy to catch. Also, they can be found in virtually all coastal and offshore habitats from mangroves (as their name implies) out to natural ledges and artificial reefs in deeper waters. Hence, they are caught in both state and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
While many Gulf species have the same fishing regulations for state and federal waters, this is not the case for mangrove snapper. For Florida state waters, which extend out to nine nautical miles in the Gulf, the minimum size limit is 10 inches total length with a daily bag limit of five fish per angler. In Gulf federal waters, which extend beyond 9 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles however, the mangrove snapper minimum size limit is 12 inches and the daily bag limit is 10 fish per angler.
So, there is a potential problem. If an angler caught a legal bag limit of mangrove snapper in federal waters and then stopped to fish in state waters, they’d be breaking the law by having five fish over the state bag limit. Regardless of an angler’s intentions, it would be difficult to prove the fish were caught in federal waters, which could result in fines for each fish over the bag limit.
Likewise, if you are in possession of 10 or 12 inch mangrove snapper legally caught in state waters and head out to federal waters, you would then be in possession of undersized fish.
Whats a person to do? Simple, do not stop and fish once you re-enter state waters when returning from federal waters in possession of fish that are are not legal in state waters. There is no way you can prove that they were caught in federal waters.
If you have sub legal size fish (base on federal rules) caught in state waters, do not continue on to fish in federal waters. In this case, they would be in possession of an undersized mangrove snapper according to federal rules and could face federal fines if stopped.
Keeping a current copy of state and federal regulations on board your boat is always recommended to help you fish legally and avoid any unnecessary fines.
Both state and federal regulations can be downloaded from online at the following sites.
Florida state recreational fishing regulations:
Gulf of Mexico federal recreational fishing regulations:
Editor's note: This article is published courtesy of The Marine Scene: The Southwest Florida Sea Grant Newsletter