Note: This article was posted four months before the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to enact an emergency, allowing only an 11-day summer snapper season. Click here for more on red snapper season.

The red snapper, among the most sought fish in the Gulf of Mexico by both recreational and commercial anglers, will have a 40-day season in 2014, federal fisheries said Tuesday.

The recreational red snapper season will open at 12:01 a.m. June 1 and close at 12:01 a.m. July 11.

Red snapper issues have been contentious in recent years, including this year when Texas, Louisiana and other Gulf states pushed back against proposed federal rules on red snapper, urging that snapper regulation be left up to the discretion of states, citing scientific research supporting the stance. Gov. Rick Perry and other Gulf state governors also sent a letter to Congressional leaders in April, stating that federal management of Gulf red snapper is evidence of a system that is “irretrievably broken,” and called for passage of legislation that would replace it with a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management.

In Texas, federal waters begin nine nautical miles from the coast and extend 200 nautical miles.

Anglers in the Gulf of Mexico had a supplemental fall red snapper recreational season, including one that ran Oct. 1-14 off the Texas coast.

NOAA Fisheries previously announced a rule increasing the allowable catch for red snapper from 8.46 million pounds to 11 million pounds. The recreational quota increased from 4.145 million pounds to 5.39 million pounds and the commercial quota increased from 4.315 million pounds to 5.61 million pounds. The increased quota is the highest catch level the council can set without having to decrease the figure in subsequent years, and will remain in effect through 2014.

In July the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved the supplemental fall snapper framework and increased the quota for commercial and recreational anglers, but managers continued to look into harvest estimates, which showed a higher figure than expected.

The length of the federal recreational season in the Gulf is determined by the amount of the quota, the average weight of fish landed and estimated catch rates over time. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for ensuring the entire recreational harvest, including harvest in state waters, does not exceed the recreational quota. Therefore, if states establish a longer season or a larger bag limit for state waters than the federal regulations allow in federal waters, the federal season must be adjusted to account for the additional harvest expected in state waters.

More than 95 percent of the red snapper landed in Texas come from federal waters, according to TPWD figures. Most of that catch – about 80 percent – comes from head boats, also known as “party boats,” which take out numerous paying clients offshore. These boats account for roughly 200,000 angler fishing trips annually, according to TPWD figures.

In 2012 the snapper season in federal waters throughout the Gulf was 46 days. Because snapper stocks are doing well and growing in the Gulf, snapper fishing is allowed 365 days a year in Texas state waters and 88 days in Louisiana state waters.

The recreational red snapper bag limit in federal waters is two fish at least 16 inches in length. The bag limit in Texas waters is four fish, at least 15 inches long, with a year-round season.

The method for calculating the dates for the federal season for each state are available online.


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