It could become confusing, but fishermen on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast should be happy with the 2018 red snapper season announced Tuesday by the Department of Marine Resources.
The season will begin on Friday, May 25 in both state and federal waters out to 200 nautical miles.
When it will end, well, that’s where it could get tricky.
The season is projected to run through Sept. 3, Labor Day, but could close earlier, at any time that the assigned quota for recreational anglers or the state’s for-hire charter boats is reached after the season opens. It will also close if the Gulf-wide quota is reached.
However, there is a chance the season could include a “time out.”
MDMR said it is possible that the season could close between July 9-22, with the intention of insuring Mississippi’s annual quota is not met before Labor Day. It will depend on the pounds caught before July 4.
“That sounds a lot better than anything we’ve heard over the past, what, two or three decades,” said Phillip Rodgers, an avid recreational fishermen from Gulfport who relishes including red snapper in his offshore trips. “That we have basically a summer-long season is great.
“It’s not only great for getting more opportunity, but also it gives the states a chance to show what we’ve been saying all along — that the fishery is best managed on a local basis and not by a federal agency that guess-timates what the harvests are across the Gulf.”
Federal officials on Monday approved Mississippi’s request for an Exempted Fishing Permit, which allows states to harvest certain requested species that otherwise would not be allowed under federal regulations. Requests were also approved for Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.
The permits will allow the Gulf States to participate in a two-year pilot program for recreational red snapper harvests based on a quota for each state. Gulf States officials said the program would allow managers in each state to gather data on red snapper, giving better accountability to harvest than how federal officials have estimated it in the past.
Mississippi’s state-managed season is for private recreational anglers and fishermen fishing with the state’s for-hire charter captains. They will be allowed to fish out to 200 nautical miles. The daily limit is two per angler per day, with a 16-inch minimum length.
Mississippi’s quota is 137,949 pounds, which the agency said will be split proportionally between the private recreational and state for-hire sectors. The quota for recreational fishermen is 135,149 pounds. The state for-hire quota is 2,800 pounds.
MDMR will manage each group’s allotment individually, but the seasons will coincide.
“This program allows Mississippi anglers more opportunity and greater flexibility to harvest red snapper,” said Matt Hill, director of MDMR’s Finfish Bureau. “It also allows the agency to closely monitor the harvest using the Tails N’ Scales Program.”
Tails N’ Scales is a mandatory reporting program. Anglers must create a profile and start a trip before going fishing for red snapper. They must have a trip number when they are out on the water. They also must report their catch within 24 hours and close out one trip before creating a new one.
Anglers caught without an authorization number will be fined, and their fish confiscated.
Tails N’ Scales is available through a smartphone app, a website and a call center. The app is available in iTunes and Google Play, and the website is tailsnscales.org. Fishermen also can call 1-844-MSSNAPP (677-6277) to speak to a representative if they don’t have access to a smartphone or computer. Anyone using the app must download the latest update before creating a trip this year.
For questions regarding the Tails N’ Scales system or to report any issues, call 228-697-5762.