When Kevin Anson addressed a gathering of charter captains in Orange Beach, he found the group pleased with the federal red snapper season ending July 22.
“Generally, they were happy and have been happy since sector separation and the federally permitted boats having their own quota,” Anson said. “It gives them more stability. Here lately they’ve been increasing their number of days and they’ve been increasing their opportunity for red snapper.”
The new rules, enacted by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Council in 2015, placed federally licensed snapper boats and private and state-licensed boats in two sectors with different quotas for what they could catch.
“It carved out a percentage of the recreational quota and set it aside for the federally permitted charter boats,” Anson said. “They had a Gulfwide quota that they are managed to and their season is set around. They get included with the other charter boats in the other four Gulf states.”
This year the catch was up a bit from 2017 but Anson said it was not a surprising jump. He also pointed out these are preliminary numbers and the final report is yet to be compiled. Roughly 740,000 pounds were harvested in 2017 for the federally permitted vessels, and roughly 765,000 pounds were harvested this year, Anson said.
The state season regulates private anglers and state-licensed boats and was initially scheduled weekends from June 1 through Labor Day. Fishing was allowed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays except for the week of the Fourth of July, which was open to snapper fishing all week long.
The abundant catch this summer tracked through the Snapper Check program caused the state to close the season on July 22. Alabama received an exemption from the National Marine Fisheries Service that will allow the state to manage its red snapper season through 2019, according to Anson.
“What the exempted permit did was set aside a number of pounds for each of the Gulf states,” Anson said. “We had 984,000 pounds that were allotted to us and we were to try and stay at or below that number. Early, preliminary results that we use to monitor the season indicate that we went over.”
The captains, meeting in a new office in the Orange Beach Medical Arts Building, also expressed concerns about cobia. Anson said the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Council will likely address the issue in an upcoming meeting.
“They have been declining in recent years and pretty much fell off the map this year for the panhandle of Florida,” Anson said. “They didn’t have a spring run. You can just about count on your hands the landings during the spring run over in Panama City and the Destin area. They usually catch a whole bunch each year.”
Anson said studies are being done and he expects some limits to be placed on how many cobia each boat can keep.