A limited-harvest opening of recreational and commercial red snapper fishing in November 2017 will allow anglers in South Atlantic federal waters to target red snapper for the first time since 2014.
NOAA Fisheries announced the emergency action late Friday, after the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council requested the opening based on recent scientific information indicating a large increase in the size of the red snapper population since 2010.
Recreational fishermen may keep one red snapper per angler per day (no size limits) on November 3, 4 and 5 and November 10, 11 and 12.
Commercial anglers may harvest red snapper starting November 2, with their season continuing until December 31, 2017, or sooner if the commercial annual-catch limit is projected to be met. The trip limit is 75 pounds, gutted weight.
The recreational red snapper catch limit is 29,656 fish; the commercial sector will operate with a 124,815-pound catch limit.
“We are thrilled with today’s decision by the Secretary of Commerce and appreciate the hard work of the SAFMC to provide this opportunity,” says Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association. “After years of limited to zero days of recreational red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic, the decision to open the fishery for harvest in 2017 is a victory.”
NOAA Fisheries maintains that the limited harvest in 2017 is neither expected to result in overfishing of red snapper, nor prevent continued rebuilding of their population.
The agency also notes that “recreational discards were one of the most important and uncertain sources of information used in the [red snapper] stock assessment during the harvest prohibition from 2010 to 2014.”
Accordingly, to minimize release mortality, the agency recommends that anglers use fish descender devices when releasing red snapper showing signs of barotrauma, single-hook rigs and dehooking devices.
The organization Keep Florida Fishing also suggests that anglers can help provide much-needed information on recreational harvest by recording their catches at MyFishCount.