Four areas of interest to anglers from the Carolinas will be off limits to bottom fishing year-round beginning on July 31. This ruling came down from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last month as Amendment 36 of the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.
The purpose of closing these areas is to establish spawning special management zones intended to protect spawning or reproducing fish and their habitat.
A total of five zones in federal waters will be closed to fishing for, possessing, and keeping all fish species in the snapper-grouper complex. One of the areas is off the coast of Florida. Another one, South Cape Lookout, is off the coast of North Carolina. The other three are off South Carolina’s coast, and include Area 51, Area 53, and Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole.
South Cape Lookout is a 5.10 square mile area, Area 51 measures 2.99 square miles, Area 53 is also 2.99 square miles, and Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole is 3.03 square miles.
Anglers will still be allowed to troll for pelagic species like dolphin, wahoo, tuna, etc. in these areas. Passing through these areas with species of the snapper-grouper complex that were caught in other areas will also be allowed, as long as fishing gear is appropriately stowed during while passing through. Anchoring in these areas is prohibited, except in Area 51 and Area 53.
The snapper-grouper complex is made up of 55 species. Red snappers, vermilion snappers, yellowtail snappers, gag groupers, scamp groupers, snowy groupers, sea bass, jacks, triggerfish, etc. Basically, if you anchor over a reef to fish for them, they are probably in the snapper-grouper complex.
The fishing closures in the South Cape Lookout and Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole spawning special management zones will be in place for 10 years, and they could be reauthorized before expiring. No expiration date is set for Area 51 or Area 53.