Gulf of Mexico— Officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce today announced 39-day extension to the federal red snapper season. The action was the result of negotiations between the Department of Commerce and the Gulf states to improve recreational red snapper access after a record low three-day federal season was announced earlier this year.
“Red snapper has a cult following,” says Capt. Chris Williams of Pensacola, Florida. “People travel to the Northern Gulf in June and July to do nothing but fish for red snapper. I book up for the entire season twice a day to do nothing but fish for snapper, because they’re the most popular fish we have in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.”
Williams says the economic impact of snapper in the Gulf region is huge. “It’s something people have done for generations, and they’ve passed it down to their kids and grandkids. It drives the sales for everything. When I’m running two trips a day, I’m spending $200-$400 per day at a tackle store. If you have 25-30 guides in an area doing the same thing, spending money on leaders, bait, rods and reels—that adds up.”
Williams notes that while charter captains aren’t limited to the same season as the federal recreational season, the economic impact of everyday anglers fishing for snapper shouldn’t be undersold.
“If you’re an everyday angler, you had three days this year to go fish for snapper. That’s just not right. I can’t take someone grouper fishing without catching 30-4o red snapper. That’s just how it is. Right now, they’re allocating natural resources to commercial fishermen that should be allocated to the general public. I think extending the federal recreational season is a step forward. I also don’t think they need to limit it they way they do. Yes, I’m for some limits, because it can be overfished, but the limits need to be backed by numbers.”
A 2011 NOAA study listed recreational fishing tackle sales in gulf states at $1.3 billion, and sales of commercial seafood at over $19 billion.
The extended season applies only to recreational fishing, and excludes charter and commercial fishing.
According to the American Sportfishing Association, the extended season will be 39 days total, consisting of three-day weekends (Friday–Sunday) from Friday, June 16 through Monday, September 4. Fishing will also be allowed on Monday and Tuesday, July 3-4 and Monday, September 4.
“Today’s announcement providing additional Gulf red snapper fishing days is a welcome relief for the thousands of tackle shops, marinas, equipment manufacturers and other businesses who have suffered from decreasing public access to Gulf red snapper in recent years,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director, in an official release. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) along with the Gulf states’ marine fisheries agencies’ directors for working diligently to pursue this action.”
Red snapper harvest will not be allowed in state or federal waters on Monday through Thursday during the summer, with the exception of holiday weekend. Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi may allow additional fishing days in state waters during the fall, dependent on summer harvest numbers.