All About Florida Keys Fishing & Key West Fishing

    Gray snapper are tropical, marine reef fish that occur from the U.S. mid-Atlantic south to
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Juveniles are common to inshore waters throughout Florida, and adults
    are found in areas of moderate to high relief on the continental shelf. Spawning occurs during
    summer (June–September) in offshore waters around reefs, wrecks, and other bottom structures
    (Stark 1971; Domeier et al. 1996). Maturity occurs at about 7.5" standard length (Koenig 1993),
    which is probably the size when some gray snapper reach age-1 or age-2 (Manooch and
    Matheson 1981). Gray snapper reach about 3.7”–5.8” total length (TL) at age 1, can grow to
    about 30", and can live at least 25 years (Table 1; Manooch and Matheson 1981; Johnson et al.
    1994). Burton (2001) noted that growth rates for gray snapper in northeast and southeast Florida
    differed: fish from northeast Florida attained a greater maximum size and age than those from
    southeast Florida. Catch curves showing estimates of total annual mortality ranged from 0.35 in
    northeast Florida to 0.94 in southeast Florida (Burton 2001).

    Adult gray snapper are nocturnal predators that forage away from their reef habitats.
    Juveniles feed diurnally among seagrass beds (Bortone and Williams 1986) and feed primarily
    on penaeid shrimp and crabs (Rutherford et al.1989a). Adult gray snappers feed on fish (largely
    grunts), shrimp, and crabs. (Harrigan et al. 1989; Hettler 1989).
    Gray snapper landings totaled 2,039,942 pounds in 2005. The recreational fishery made
    85% of the statewide landings. Landings were greater on the gulf coast, where about 72% of the
    statewide landings were made in 2005. Commercial landings, made throughout the state, were
    highest in Monroe and Pinellas Counties on the gulf coast (Fig. 1). Recreational landings
    occurred in all regions and were highest in the southern half of the peninsula (Fig. 2). The 2005
    total landings were 1% lower than the average landings in the previous five years (2000–2004)
    and were 2% lower than the1982–2005 historical average landings (Fig. 3). Total annual
    landings of gray snapper have been relatively steady since 1982 on the Atlantic coast; though,
    landings have increased somewhat since 1998. On the gulf coast, landings have been relatively
    stable with a slight increase since 1998 (Fig. 3).
    Commercial and recreational catch rates have remained relatively stable since 1982 on
    the Atlantic coast, while commercial catch rates show an increase from 1991-2005 and
    recreational catch rates increased slightly in 2005 on the gulf coast (Figs. 4–7).
    Relative abundance indices demonstrate that young-of-the-year gray snapper are only
    occasionally caught on the Atlantic coast. There is evidence for occasional large year classes;
    seen as higher than usual abundance indices in 2005 on the Atlantic coast (Fig. 8) and in 2004 on
    the gulf coast (Fig. 9). Post young-of-the-year abundances show an increase since 2001 on the
    Atlantic coast (Fig. 10). On the gulf coast post young-of-the-year abundances were noticeably
    higher in 2002 and 2003 (Fig. 11). On the Atlantic coast the proportion of gray snapper >75 mm
    with gross external abnormalities was highest in 2001 (Fig. 12). On the gulf coast the proportion
    with abnormalities has been low since 1999 (Fig. 13). All abnormalities observed were skeletal
    deformations on the Atlantic coast (Fig. 14); non-classified (other) abnormalities were most
    common on the gulf coast (Fig. 15).
    Manooch and Matheson (1981) found that yield-per-recruit would increase in South
    Florida in the early 1980s if the age-at-recruitment was increased. At that time gray snapper
    recruited to the fishery at about 12” TL. Similarly, Rutherford et al. (1989b) found that gray
    snapper were too small, in terms of yiled per recruit, when harvested (< 10” FL) in Everglades
    National Park during the early 1980s. Burton (2001) noted that in northeast Florida gray snapper
    were fully recruited into the headboat fishery between ages 5 and 6 (13”–22” TL), to the
    commercial fishery between ages 7 and 8 (14”–24” TL), and into the private recreational fishery
    between ages 4 and 7 (12”–24” TL). In southeast Florida, gray snapper were fully recruited into
    all fisheries between ages 4 and 5 (9”–20” TL). Regional estimates of fishing mortality for gray
    snapper were 0.16 per year for northeast Florida and 0.66 per year for southeast Florida (Burton
    2001). A 10" size limit, which included prohibition of the sale of any gray snapper less than 12"
    total length, was implemented in 1990. A bag-limit of 5 gray snapper was also implemented in
    1990 as part of the 10-fish-aggregate snapper bag limit.
Download complete report
(including figures)
Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
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