In response to a federal season lasting only nine days, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced yesterday state waters would be open for Red Snapper fishing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month of July.
Alabama is joining Texas, Louisiana and Florida, which have all augmented snapper seasons in their respective state waters.
In preparation for a historically short federal fishing season, Louisiana announced early in the year that its state waters would be open to snapper fishing 265 days a year. Florida, which has traditionally followed federal regulations, announced plans for 52-day season in May.
Alabama’s state waters extend only three miles from shore — considerably smaller than Texas and Florida’s, which each extend outward for nine nautical miles. That disparity goes all the way back to what each state claimed when they entered the union.
According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, every other state has three nautical miles of state waters, but those two state have three marine leagues, which equates about approximately nine nautical miles.
“Both Louisiana and Mississippi have claimed out to nine nautical miles for fisheries management, but those claims are not recognized by the federal government,” said Seth Morrow, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne. “The expansion of state boundaries is also likely to cause NOAA to have an even shorter federal season next year.”
Morrow said there is also concern the confusion may lead to increased fines for people who think they can fish beyond state boundaries recognized by the federal government.
This year’s federal Snapper season ended June 10 and those regulations in federal waters still apply.
A daily bag limit of two snapper will still be in effect for fishermen, and fish must be a minimum of 16 inches in length.
Fishermen will also be able to harvest Gray triggerfish during this extended state season. A similar two-fish bag limit and 14-inch length requirement will be in effect.
“The state Red Snapper season will be open during three of the biggest weekends for fishing: The Fourth of July weekend, the Roy Martin Dauphin Island Young Anglers Tournament and the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo,” Bentley said in a press release. “Red snapper fishing is popular along the Alabama Gulf Coast, and the extra fishing days are good for the Gulf Coast economy. I welcome fishermen to take advantage of the additional opportunities for red snapper fishing in our waters.”
Gene Fox, president of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, said he and the board of directors are “very excited” about the governor and the Department of Marine Resources’ announcement.
The area’s 81st annual deep sea fishing event will feature snapper, but officials aren’t sure how just yet.
“The board of directors is working very hard to determine how we will implement snapper into the rodeo,” Fox said. “We’ll have several different options — whether it’s a full category, special category or a jackpot catch.”
Fox said the rodeo would be making an announcement about Snapper fishing at the tournament as soon as possible.
“A lot of people will tell you, ‘you can’t go bottom fishing without catching a snapper,’” Fox said. “This is a tremendous opportunity our tournament and our anglers.”
The news came on the same day the U.S. Commerce Department announced 22 new and returning members to the eight regional fishery management councils that oversee see the nation’s coastal waters.
The Gulf Fishery Management Council, which includes members from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, has filled three at-large seats.
The new Gulf committee appointees are Pamela J. Dana of Florida, Gregory W. Stunz of Texas and David A. Walker of Alabama.