These rules became effective on June 1, 2008 in all waters of the Gulf of Mexico and affect
all reef fish species including groupers, snappers, amberjacks, triggerfish, porgies, sea
bass, hogfish, and tilefish. As of July 29, 2009, regulations require recreational and
commercial fishers to use dehooking devices when fishing for reef fish in federal waters of
the Atlantic off Florida. Consistent regulations have been in effect in state waters of the
Atlantic since January 19, 2010. Effective March 3, 2011, non-stainless steel circle hooks
must be used when fishing for reef fish with hook and line gear and natural baits north of
latitude 28°N in Atlantic federal waters.
The intent of these rules is to help conserve fishery resources by minimizing mortality
associated with releasing fish that are not going to be harvested due to regulations or for
other reasons. Fishers and anglers are being asked to be responsible to acquire and use
the required gear when fishing for reef fish species.
The rules require fishers on all vessels fishing for reef
fish in the Gulf to possess and use non-stainless steel
circle hooks when natural baits are used. A circle hook
is a fishing hook designed and manufactured so that the
point is not offset, but turned perpendicularly back to the
shank to form a generally circular or oval shape.
At its June 2010 meeting, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved a
management measure that would require persons aboard vessels fishing for reef fish in
Atlantic federal waters north of 28° latitude (near Melbourne) to use non-stainless steel
circle hooks. This requirement will be reviewed by NOAA Fisheries Service and is subject
to the approval of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. If approved by the Secretary of
Commerce, the circle hook requirement for Atlantic federal waters would likely go into effect
later this year.
Fishers on all vessels fishing for reef fish in state and
federal waters of the Gulf and Atlantic, are required to
possess and use a dehooking device to remove hooks
embedded in reef fish with minimal damage. The
dehooking device must be constructed to allow the hook
to be secured and the barb shielded without re-engaging
during the removal process. It must be blunt and all edges
rounded, and it must be of a size appropriate to secure the
range of hook sizes and styles used in the reef fish fishery.
inches from the base of the pectoral fin and be inserted just deep enough to release the
gases so that the fish may be released with minimum damage.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission • Farris Bryant Building
620 S. Meridian St. • Tallahassee, FL
32399-1600 • (850) 488-4676
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Reef Fish Gear Rules