Snapper galore, and more await anglers making offshore runs

Snapper galore, and more await anglers making offshore runs

The short-lived recreational red snapper season has come and gone, but the boats that managed to get out and fish in federal waters, out past 9 nautical miles, didn’t seem to have any problem finding and catching the prized and tasty snapper.

Dan Gamble and some friends made the run out of Galveston on the second day of the season and found plenty of snapper, along with a few king mackerel and one ling.

“We went out about 32 miles out of Galveston and fished three wrecks,” says Gamble. “The first one was holding hundreds of small snapper in the one to two pound class. But the second wreck we fished was holding snapper in the 3 to 5 pound class. We probably released 50 or more from that one spot. Closer in, we fished a rig that was swarming with baitfish. That’s where we caught kings and one ling. When it was all said and done, we had a great day offshore. It’s just pitiful that we only have a three-day recreational season in federal waters. That’s where all the snapper are on the upper Texas coast. There definitely is no shortage of red snapper.”

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently released a report on the Fisheries Economics of the United States. It’s almost comical to compare the amount of money generated by recreational anglers as compared to commercial fishing. The report was posted by Brad Gentner, president of Gentner Consulting Group.

According to the FEUS report, in 2015, the fisheries economy in the U.S. generated $200 billion in total economic activity. Of that number, $13.9 billion was created by the commercial sector, or $38.0 billion from the supply chain all the way to the consumer for those fish caught by U.S. commercial harvesters; $92.3 billion in seafood imports; and $63.4 billion from recreational fishing. That’s $63.4 billion recreational vs. (at most) $38.0 billion for the commercial harvesting sector.

“NMFS did not try once again to paint the commercial industry as larger than the recreational industry in its announcement,” says Gentner. “That only makes sense because the commercial industry has a smaller economic footprint no matter how you slice it.

“Even in the face of increasingly harsh regulations forcing recreational fishing efforts down nationwide, spending by recreational anglers has stayed strong, even increasing. 2015 was up almost $3 billion over 2014, mainly due to a revised durable good expenditure survey that showed recreational anglers are, on average, spending more per person on durable goods like boats and rods and reels. It is likely that trip expenditure estimates will go up even further for 2016 as a new trip expenditure survey has recently concluded.”

Meanwhile commercial fishing is shrinking, with revenue dropping more than $300 million from 2014 to 2015 and total economic activity dropping by nearly $10 billion dollars during the same time frame.

“If the recreational sector produces nearly $12 billion a year more than the entire seafood supply chain from the commercial harvester to the consumer, and nearly $50 billion more than the commercial sector, the inevitable question is, why does NOAA Fisheries spend the bulk of its time, effort and energy on management of the commercial harvesting sector?” said Gentner.

“The federal government has routinely ignored even its own economic reports that show recreational fishing generates drastically more economic activity with a lighter impact on the environment and on marine resources. As a nation, we are missing a tremendous economic opportunity when the agency charged with managing the nation’s fisheries operates in such a one-sided and completely illogical manner. “

How it all began with BASS and Ray Scott

A half-century ago, when Ray Scott of Montgomery, Alabama, wanted to entice outdoor media to cover his upcoming press conference, he didn’t soft-sell the event. He invited the journalists to meet him in Springdale, Arkansas, and learn about “the biggest, most important happening in bass fishing history.”

The “happening” was the All-American Bass Tournament on Beaver Lake, an event many mark as the beginning of the modern era of bass fishing. The tournament was held June 5-7, 1967 — 50 years ago this week. The tournament was successful enough to launch the professional fishing careers of Bill Dance, Stan Sloan, Don Butler and others, and it inspired Scott, an insurance salesman turned promoter, to conduct a “tournament trail” of events across the country.

And it spawned the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society — BASS for short — which would grow into the world’s largest fishing organization with more than 500,000 members and a magazine, Bassmaster, currently read by 4.5 million people each month.

Thanks to tournaments organized by Scott and, later, by others, the black bass has become America’s most popular sportfish, helping drive a freshwater fishing industry that generates $73 billion for the nation’s economy and provides employment for more than 500,000 people nationwide.

“The celebration of Ray Scott’s first tournament is vital to our sport,” says James Hall with BASS. “Ray and his small band of supporters legitimized bass fishing competitions and spawned an industry. That’s a big, big deal. Almost every tournament organization today still uses the basic rules developed for the All-American event held 50 years ago. That effort became the constitution for bass tournaments.”