Feds open snapper season but will close it on July 18

The good news is that the very popular red snapper recreational season in federal waters is now open. The bad news is that it’ll close on July 18.

Those are the regs set by the National Marine Fisheries Service. And I might mention that they are very unpopular regs with not only most every offshore angler out there, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as well. State waters out to 9 nautical miles are open year round with a four snapper per day limit. Marine biologists with TPWD don’t think that snapper numbers are as low as the NMFS says they are. Because of that state waters are open year round to recreational anglers. Federal waters, past 9 nautical miles, are only open for 48 days with a daily limit of two snapper.

There is more good news. Since the June 1 opener in federal waters, anglers are taking easy limits of huge snapper. In fact, based on reports I’ve fielded it’s tough to get a bait to bottom without it getting chomped on by a snapper.

I got a report this week from Patrick Lemire with Williams Party Boats in Galveston. Their snapper fishing trip this past Saturday was full with 67 fishermen aboard the Capt. John.

“About 65 miles southeast of Galveston, fishing started over a rock formation in 120 feet of water,” says Lemire. “Fishing cut squid or whole Spanish sardines throughout the water column at several spots produced a red snapper limit for the boat. Most of the snapper went to 8 pounds, with several in the 10-12 pound range. A couple of ling, vermilion snapper and a Warsaw grouper were also iced.

“After the red snapper limit was caught, the trek back to Galveston’s Pier 19 was begun. Stops were made at four weed patches where kings and 31 dorado were taken. Also caught was a 23-pound red snapper that was released to fight again another day, as the red snapper limit had already been boxed and iced. You never know what a weed patch drift might produce.”

And now, how about some more bad news from the NMFS.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets next week in Key West, Fla., and in spite of opposition from governors, Congress and the vast majority of recreational anglers, NOAA (NMFS) Fisheries has unveiled a proposal for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to split the recreational angling sector, take red snapper from the recreational quota and give them to party boats in a catch share program.

According to the Coastal Conservation Association, the NMFS will meet in a closed session, the council will appoint an advisory panel to make recommendations on a new Individual Fishing Quota program for party boats. CCA reports that NOAA staffers are selling the plan as a way for party boats to have a longer red snapper season. Left unsaid is that given the limited recreational allocation, giving more fish to party boats so that their season can be extended is only possible by taking fish away from the private angling sector.

CCA is asking its members in the Gulf states to send a request for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to reject the idea of sector separation and catch share programs in the recreational sector on the grounds that the concepts do not make economic sense and they do not make good policy sense. Why pit one group of recreational anglers who fish aboard their own private boats against recreational anglers who fish aboard head boats? CCA maintains that NOAA Fisheries’ attempt to divide and conquer recreational fishermen is contrary to the wishes of Gulf governors, the Congress and anglers all across the coast.

CCA is requesting that anglers ask the Gulf Council to stop exploring shortsighted shortcuts to managing our federal fisheries once and for all, and instead focus on reallocation and better data to create well-managed fisheries that make economic sense for the states, conservation sense for the resource and common sense for anglers.To log in and send your message, go to tinyurl.com/4xbp4u4.