NOAA Fisheries Announces Gear Modifications for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery

NOAA Fisheries announces the final rule for Regulatory Amendment 29 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 29).  This final rule modifies gear requirements for the fishery and encourages best fishing practices.


Regulations will be effective July 15, 2020.


The final rule:

  • Requires descending devices be on board and readily available for use on commercial, for-hire, and private recreational vessels while fishing for or possessing snapper-grouper species;
  • Requires the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits north of 28º north latitude;
  • Requires all hooks be non-stainless steel when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude; and
  • Allows the use of powerheads in federal waters off South Carolina.

2020 Gulf Red Snapper Season

Private recreational anglers (Gulf state and federal waters): June 11- July 25, closing July 26.

State for-hire operations (Gulf state waters only): June 11- July 25, closing July 26

Federal for-hire operations (Gulf federal waters) : June 1- Aug. 1.

State Reef Fish Survey

Starting July 1, 2020, the State Reef Fish Survey will replace the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. All anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish from a private vessel are required to obtain the State Reef Fish Angler designation. Learn more

2020 Atlantic federal red snapper season

The recreational season for red snapper in Atlantic federal waters will be open July 10, 11, and 12, and July 17. The season is open year-round in state waters of the Atlantic, which is from shore to 3 nautical miles. Learn more

SeaQualizer red snapper release


Release depth is determined by the depth of capture. We recommend setting your SeaQualizer to release as close to the bottom as possible. 

Watch the video above for detailed instructions on how to change the depth setting of your SeaQualizer Descending Device.


The weight required to overcome the bouyancy of a fish is determined by the size of the fish. Use 1-2 lb of weight for every 10 lbs of fish.

    • 10 lb fish – 2 lb weight
    • 20 lb fish – 4 lb weight
    • 30 lb fish – 5 lb weight


What is a SeaQualizer?

A SeaQualizer is a descending device that’s triggered by a change in pressure. Unlike other devices, the SeaQualizer latches onto the fish’s lip ensuring that it doesn’t release prematurely. 

How do I rig a SeaQualizer?

There are many ways to rig a SeaQualizer but the most common is with a 3-way swivel and stick lead. A short rod makes recovering fast and easy. Watch the video at the top of the page for more information on rigging. 

Some anglers use a down-rigger to release fish. This is probably the fastest and easiest method but many anglers don’t have this luxury. 

In any case, a fish suffering from barotrauma has the best chance of survival if it is sent back to the depth of capture as quickly as possible. 

Is a SeaQualizer mandatory?

No, the SeaQualizer is not mandatory. Descending devices, however, are required on board and readily available while fishing for or possessing Grouper-Snapper species in the South Atlantic effective July 15th, 2020. Learn more

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