The three-month spawning season closure for shallow-water grouper ends April 30, and after many years of tighter bottom-fishing rules, most of us are hoping to find more grouper and bigger grouper off our coast.

Anglers heading out better first brush up on rules governing this tightly regulated fishery.

The aggregate grouper bag limit is three groupers per person, per day, for gag, black snowy, misty, red, scamp, yellowedge, yellowfin, yellowmouth, blueline tilefish, sand tilefish, golden tilefish, coney, graysby, red hind and rock hind.

Anglers may keep only one gag or black grouper (but not both) per person, per day, as part of their aggregate limit.

Snowy grouper are limited to one per vessel, per day, and anglers can keep only one golden tilefish per person, per day.

Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use non-stainless steel circle hooks (offset or non-offset) and dehooking tools when fishing for snapper-grouper species.

Remember: The black sea bass season doesn’t start again until June 1. If you head out for grouper, you will most likely catch tons of big sea bass. Though it may break your heart to put them back in the water rather than your fish box, you must. At least for now.

Red snapper are also off the menu, though we may see some mini-seasons again later this year.

Anglers can, however, keep up to five vermilion snapper per person, per day, along with many other bottom dwellers. Go to to learn the regulations for other species and for the latest regulation updates.

Apply for gator tags

The Department of Natural Resources will begin accepting online applications for the 2013 public alligator hunting season and the Wildlife Management Area alligator hunting season at

This year’s season will begin noon Sept. 14 and run until noon Oct. 12. The deadline to apply is June 15.

It costs $10 to apply for public land hunt and $15 for the WMA hunts.

A randomized computer drawing based on a preference point system will determine the selection of hunters. DNR will grant 1,200 permits for public hunts and another 12 for WMA hunts (divided equally for four coastal hunt units).

If selected, hunters must pay $100 for the permit and one harvest tag.

Unsuccessful applicants will accumulate preference points for future drawings. Preference points add to the likelihood of being drawn. All hunters will be notified beginning in mid-July of their selection status.

Last year, hunters took 465 alligators during the public alligator hunting season, with an average length of nearly 9 feet.

For alligator hunting regulations (there are many), go to

Help cobia research

Cobia anglers can help state wildlife officials collect DNA samples to learn how many hatchery-released fish might be in the local cobia population.

Anglers in the Beaufort and Hilton Head area should contact Greg Knothe at the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton for more information at 843-837-3795 or, while anglers from Charleston to Little River should contact Justin Yost at the Marine Resources Research Institute in Charleston at 843-953-2011 or

In June 2012, more than 4,000 juvenile cobia were released in South Carolina waters. In 2007, 50,000 juvenile cobia were released into Port Royal Sound. Biologists say these fish from the 2007 release made up about half of cobia caught in 2012.

Reach Matt Winter, editor of Tideline magazine, at (843) 937-5568 or mwinter@