Red snapper fishermen will get nine days and just one weekend to fish in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the shortest season ever set by federal officials who manage the fishery.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that the recreational season for red snapper will open at 12:01 a.m. on June 1 and close at 12:01 a.m. on June 10.
It also set a 47-day charter boat season for federally permitted for-hire vessels opening at the same time and close at 12:01 a.m. on July 17.
The recreational season is one day less than 2015. The bag limit is the same, two fish per person a day with a 16-inch minimum length limit.
The recreational sector’s annual catch limit will be reduced from 7.192 million pounds in 2016 to 7.076 mp in 2017, and the annual catch target for recreational anglers was also revised downward from 5.754 million pounds in 2016 to 5.661 mp in 2017.
Mississippi anglers were not happy with the news.
“Absolutely ridiculous, any way you look at that announcement,” said angler Gary Thomas of Biloxi. “For starters, nine days? Come on. Are you freaking kidding me? The least they could have done was stretch it over two weekends. That is stupid. Pure stupidity.
“Then there’s the charter fishing season. I’m happy for them but, really, why should they have a longer season than private fishermen? Where is the equity in that?”
Thomas got maddest when he got to his final subject — the federal opinion that the red snapper fishery is in such dire straits.
“We’ve got biologists from all these Gulf Coast states who totally disagree with the science; it’s no secret,” he said. “Everybody knows there are more snapper out there than they are saying.
“For them to allow a nine-day season and a two-fish per person daily limit you’d think there’d only be a few thousand snapper out there, and we all know that is not the case. Those of us who fish out there regularly know the Gulf is filthy with snapper. They are saying I shouldn’t keep more than 18 red snapper a year.”
Mississippi has yet to announce a state season, which would be open outside the federal season restraints but only in the state’s territorial waters that extend roughly nine miles from shore.
The recently signed federal 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act includes a provision to temporarily extend state waters for reef fish management in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi from three miles to nine miles, matching that of Texas and Florida.
Louisiana opened its state season in January.
Alabama has set a 66-day season May 27-July 31.