If you haven't heard, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council put into effect an emergency rule Thursday shortening the federal red snapper season to a mere 11 fishing days.
"The 11-day season takes into consideration the incompatible state seasons and bag limits adopted by Texas, Louisiana and Florida," the management council's press release said.
Since the ruling, anglers have been angrily sounded off at the decision.
Red snapper are considered a premier target offshore. To get legal-sized fish, a run to deeper water must be made. These 35-plus-mile journeys are not cheap considering the price of gas, bait and time it takes to get offshore and catch fish. Few anglers venture that far offshore without the ability to catch and keep red snapper.
For this reason, vacations and fishing trips are planned months in advance to coordinate with the red snapper season. With this change, anglers like John Scovanner are either changing their plans or canceling them all together.
"Since I moved to North Carolina four years ago, I've planned my vacation days for red snapper season to come home and go fishing," the Bradenton native said. "In the past, early July has worked out well for the Fourth of July holiday to fish for gag and red grouper and red snapper when they are all in season."
Months ago, the season was set for 40 days, meaning the original end of the season was July 10th. After sharing the news of the season change, the frustrated Scovanner said, "I'll have to plan on a different vacation this year not centered around fishing."
Spread across the Gulf Council Facebook page are similar stories of anglers upset with the season change. Randy from Indiana posted, "Every year myself and about eight guys travel down to fish and always time our trips for when red snapper is open. This year we have a condo booked for June 14th-28th, and it looks like (red snapper season) will be closed now."
Without a doubt, anglers are missing the opportunity to fish for red snapper with friends and family as a result of the shortened season, and that is what is leaving so many, myself included, upset.
After Thursday's news, Louisiana decided to take red snapper regulations into their own hands. "After reviewing what our biologists expect Louisiana's recreational red snapper landings to be this year, and the recent action taken by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to have a very short federal season, I have decided to support our anglers and the associated fishing industry by opening state waters 365 days until further notice," stated Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary, Robert Barham.
"The Gulf Council's action is clear evidence that their process is broken and they give no consideration to the needs of individual states. For two years, I have been trying to persuade the Gulf Council to move forward with regional management, allowing the states flexibility in management by empowering our anglers and fishing industry to decide how they want red snapper managed. That hasn't happened."
For Florida, the Louisiana move could pave the way for our own state to follow suit. On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission will be holding a commission meeting to further discussions on state red snapper regulations. Last year, a 44-day red snapper season was approved in state waters, which extend to nine miles. This does little for west coast anglers, as red snapper are not obtainable within nine miles.
One possible outcome would be a longer red snapper season for state waters and a 20-fathom line (hopefully further) similar to the ruling employed during the February and March red grouper season. This line, about 2 miles east of the Mexican Pride, would allow anglers fishing shoreward to legally keep red snapper during the season if it is deemed state waters by the FWC. It happens to be right about the minimum distance needed to get red snapper.
If the proposed ruling remains in place, and the FWC is unable to help recreational anglers, could it be the beginning of anglers defying laws? "The answer is to just fish for snapper year round. ... That's what I will do," one angler says on the Facebook page. "Guess I will become a criminal," says another.