Fifty-two is the magic number for recreational fishing for red snapper in Florida waters for 2014. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports that’s how many days the species can be sought.
Meeting on Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set the red snapper period from May 24 -- the Saturday before Memorial Day – through July 14. Amanda Nally at FWC says the dates are by design to include two of the three summer holidays.
Fish and Wildlife looked at various season lengths over the past few months. The 52-day period, says Nally, is based on the durations of seasons in past years, along with other factors.
“To make sure to give people the chance to go out and recreationally fish,” said Nally, “and also recognizing the economic benefit. It brings visitors to the area and helps sell the hotels, and anglers to the story buying tackle and fuel.”
Nally says once the season opens, there are set limits that define “state waters,” and govern how many and what kind of red snapper can be caught.
For Capt. Bubba Thorson and his fellow charter boat captains, the rules covering state waters are moot.
“Here’s where they cut out feet off, and our head off and everything else,” said Thorson, whose vessel Chulamar is one of the oldest boats in the Pensacola area. “If you have a federal reef permit, which most charter boats have, you can’t fish in state waters.”
The Federal red snapper season goes from June 1 through June 11 in waters that begin at the state’s nine nautical mile mark and extends out 200 nautical miles.
Last year, the state season ran 44 days in June and July, while the federal period was most of June – plus a supplemental period in October. Thorson says the limits on red snapper only serve to impact other species.
According to federal data used to estimate red snapper harvest, recreational anglers in the Gulf have taken more than their quota six of the past seven years, exceeding the quota by as much as 88%.
The only year the recreational quota was not busted was 2010, when the BP oil spill had most of the Gulf off-limits to fishing through the heart of snapper season.