The Gulf of Mexico offshore reef fish slam consists of snapper, grouper and amberjack. The most prized snapper is the red snapper, and the most prized grouper is the gag grouper. It has been some years since all three legally could be brought back to the dock together.
For only two weeks this year, those three species will be able to be targeted and kept at the same time. With the recent addition of a two-week (formally proposed as three-week) red snapper season starting Tuesday and ending at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 14 in federal waters. The 21-day state season does little good to west central Florida anglers, who need to travel further than the nine-mile state waters border to catch red snapper.
I took to Facebook to read comments of like-minded anglers who feel the seasons are far too short for the amount of red snapper that anglers are catching. It began with the announcement, which the Gulf Council posted on its Facebook page (facebook.com/GulfCouncil) with a picture of a red snapper: "Yippie!! Fall red snapper season will be 14 days long. Opening on the 1st of October through the 14th of October. The commercial quota has also been increased."
Most responses show frustration in the anglers' voices. One reads, "Yippie? Really? Thats it???? Yippie. Well ok then lets all hold hands and sing kumbaya."
Another sarcastically follows, "Oh man that's awesome! Hopefully you will still allow us to fish next year if (we are) good. I promise to be on my best behavior!"
A few anglers get straight to the point, such as Capt. Bob Bryant of St. Petersburg: "Do you think there is a single fisherman out there, who knows we should have a 180-day plus season, who is tickled pink over what has been the shortest season ever. ... How anyone at NMFS or the Council can even jokingly celebrate this abject failure of management is beyond me."
Of the dozens of comments, there are a few who are upset with the timing. Some say October is the beginning of kingfish tournament season, leaving them unable to even attempt to catch red snapper. Others are saying October is a windy month. The latter already looks true.
After a week of wind and rain, the wind looks like it will subside briefly below 10 mph on the Tuesday opening before picking up Wednesday and holding through the weekend. Offshore forecasts for Thursday are showing winds higher than 40 mph before holding steady at 20 mph through Saturday. That would leave almost all boats stuck in port or on trailers, making a short red snapper season even shorter. Needless to say, be sure to check forecasts and buoys for up-to-date conditions before heading out.
If this holds true, it will be interesting to see what the Gulf Council does. Would it extend the season to accommodate anglers hoping for calmer days?
This could only help the unpopular agency in the eyes of the public.