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Feds extend Florida’s Gulf Red Snapper Season by 5 days in federal waters

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On May 23 (the day after the June issue of Woods ‘N Water was sent to the printer) NOAA Fisheries announced a new final rule for Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper.

The new rule increases the 2013 quotas for commercial and recreational red snapper harvest and extends Florida’s red snapper season by five days in federal waters “because the population is growing.”

Florida’s federal red snapper season will now run fron June 1-26 instead of June 1-21 as was announced in May.

The overall red snapper quota will increase from 8.080 million pounds whole weight (2012) to 8.460 million pounds whole weight for 2013 — an increase of 380,000 lbs.
Recreational Season

The federal recreational season for Gulf of Mexico red snapper begins June 1, 2013 with a 2-fish bag limit.

The new increase in the overall quota translates into a slightly longer season than was announced last month for most anglers.

Anglers in Florida (26 days) and Texas (17 days) picked up five additional days to fish in federal waters, while the season was extended six more days (June 1-July 4) for Alabama and Mississippi (34 days total). Louisiana anglers saw their season increase from nine to 24 days (15 additional days), as the season changed from June 1-9 to June 1-24.

During development of the final rule, NOAA Fisheries re-calculated the projected 2013 red snapper recreational season lengths off each Gulf state using updated recreational landings data as well as new information from Louisiana and Texas to come up with the new dates.

The method for calculating the dates for the federal season for each state are available online at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/red_snapper/documents/pdfs/2013_red_snapper_emergency_regs.pdf.

2013 Season Lengths
Mississippi and Alabama: In federal and state waters off Mississippi and Alabama – due to consistent regulations – the season will be 34 days and close on July 5, 2013, at 12:01 a.m. local time.

Florida: In federal waters off Florida – due to inconsistent regulations in state waters – the season will be 26 days and close on June 27, 2013 at 12:01 a.m., local time. Florida state waters are open June 1 – July 14, 2013, with a two-fish bag limit.

Texas: In federal waters off Texas – due to inconsistent state regulations – the season will be 17 days and close on June 18, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. local time. Texas state waters are open all year for recreational red snapper fishing with a four-fish bag limit.

Louisiana: In federal waters off Louisiana – due to inconsistent regulations – the season will be 24 days and close on June 25, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. local time. Louisiana state waters are open weekends only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), March 23 – September 30, 2013, with a three-fish bag limit.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will review the 2013 red snapper population assessment during their June meeting in Pensacola, Florida.

The council may request an emergency rule to increase the quota again based on the new scientific information and request NOAA Fisheries to reopen the recreational season for red snapper later in the year.

“Well, once again the wonderful National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has once again changed the number of days we can fish in federal waters,” Capt. Bob Zales said.

“Apparently their staffs have re-run the numbers and determined all states will get more days. However, after next weeks SSC meeting, I assume we could see another shift, with more or less days,” Zales added.

“For those of you who have contacted your customers and told them they may not be able to catch red snapper after June 21, you can now call them back, so hopefully those who canceled trips will re-book. Apparently, businesses who are dependent on fisheries and families and anglers making plans to fish, must always be prepared to contact our customers to let them know what the status of the season because it can change daily. After all, apparently NMFS thinks being able to make plans to fish over a certain period is not really that important, nor is scheduling vacation time, booking hotels and planning around families’ schedules.

“I am sure employers will certainly be flexible for employees as they come back again and again asking to change their plans. The recent actions by NOAA Fisheries and how the NMFS continues to make their projections, continues to show that they do not have a clue as to how to manage or how it affects the public and businesses,” Zales said.

Gulf recreational red snapper season begins June 1

The 2013 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season begins June 1 in state and federal waters.

This year’s state season is 44 days long and will be open through July 14 with the first day of the closure being July 15. The federal season off Florida will be 26 days long.

The state season was approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its April 17 meeting in Tallahassee. State waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles in Gulf waters; federal waters extend beyond that line to 200 nautical miles.
State and federal regulations require all commercial fishers and recreational anglers fishing for any reef fish species in the Gulf of Mexico to use circle hooks, venting tools and dehooking devices. In Gulf state and federal waters, the minimum size limit is 16 inches total length and the bag limit is two fish per person, per day, within a 10-fish snapper aggregate limit.

While the yearly quota for how many pounds of red snapper can be harvested has increased in recent years, the federal season length has gotten shorter over the past few years because of more fishing effort and larger fish, according to federal fishery managers.

The FWC Commission chose to go inconsistent with the 2013 federal season based on reports that the upcoming federal stock assessment would likely show red snapper populations are doing better than previously thought and reports from anglers that the fishery is improving.

More information about red snapper fishing is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and then “Gulf Red Snapper.”