Say you’re a local fisherman pleased that red snapper fishing opportunities have been improving since the state of Alabama — and other Gulf states — gained some control over the length of season and dates for recreational fishermen.
But you want more. You live on or near the coast and don’t particularly relish the weekend mad dashes for red snapper with other recreational fishermen who flock to the area on fishing weekends.
“The number one comment we received about last season is a lot of anglers would like another weekday opportunity,” Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon said. “Some people who have the ability to avoid the weekends would if the weather’s going to be decent. So, let people who can only have the weekends go fish then and they would fish say, a Monday. That’s what we’re considering is how to add Mondays in there.”
For the past two years, Alabama and four other Gulf Coast states have set the snapper season for recreational anglers. Each state was allotted a catch quota — about 4.6 million pounds total, with Alabama’s set at 1.2 million— by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the last vestige of federal control over the recreational red snapper fisherman.
Starting this year, Reef Fish Amendment 50: State Management for Recreational Red Snapper was agreed to by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Part of that control means states can add flexibility into the season like adding Mondays for local recreational fishermen.
“We now have the opportunity to set the seasons anytime during the year,” Bannon said. “We have the ability to adjust the bag limit, the size limit and we can set area closures.”
If there is bad weather on a designated fishing weekend, those days can be added at the end of the season or made into an extra, mini season. The key to getting the amendment passed was each state’s recording system. Alabama uses Snapper Check, a phone app that fishermen can directly report their catch to the Marine Resources Division.
“The reporting rate has gone up,” Bannon said. “It was around 51 percent last year, which is good. We would always encourage everyone to continue to do that because that’s what gives us the flexibility in setting those season dates. Again, if the weather’s bad and we miss a weekend, we will move those pounds to another set of days. Like last year on Labor Day, we had bad weather and moved it to an October weekend.”
And, if the 1.2 million-pound quota is met early, the state’s season would have to close down for the year. Bannon said the season hasn’t been set, but will likely be similar to the last two years, with weekend fishing Memorial Day through Labor Day, with a few special days thrown in.
Charter boats are still regulated by NOAA and can take customers red snapper fishing seven days a week beginning on June 1. In 2019, they were allowed a 70-day season, but the 2020 dates have yet to be set.
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