4 day Red Snapper season announced for South Atlantic

Anglers get even fewer days to fish than previous years

The popular fish has been limited for a decade to fisherman (Rebecca Barry)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rep John Rutherford tweeted that NOAA announced a four day red snapper fishing season for 2020 for the South Atlantic, which includes Georgia and Florida.

Rutherford’s tweet details a four day mini season for the South Atlantic on July 10th, 11th, 12th, and 17th. He points out that the four day season will help the hard hit fishing industry which has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rutherford followed his initial tweet with a promise to push for more days to fish for red snapper in the future.

NOAA later confirmed Rutherford’s tweet and released the details of the season for the 2020 season:

  • The recreational sector will open for harvest on weekends only on the following 4 days:
  • July 10, 11, and 12, 2020 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) - The recreational season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 10, 2020, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 13, 2020.
  • July 17, 2020 (Friday) - The recreational season opens again at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 17, 2020, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 18, 2020.
  • The commercial sector will open for harvest at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 13, 2020, and will close at 12:01 a.m., local time, on January 1, 2021, unless the commercial annual catch limit is met or projected to be met before this date.
  • If the commercial sector needs to close before 12:01 a.m., local time, on January 1, 2021, NOAA Fisheries will announce it in the Federal Register and publish another Fishery Bulletin


  • The limited openings are based on the final rule for Amendment 43 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (83 FR 35428).
  • The final rule specified recreational and commercial annual catch limits for red snapper beginning in 2018 and subsequent years.


  • The total annual catch limit will be 42,510 fish.
  • The recreational annual catch limit will be 29,656 fish.
  • The recreational bag limit will be one red snapper per person per day. This applies to private and charterboat/headboat vessels (the captain and crew on for-hire vessels may retain the recreational bag limit).
  • The commercial annual catch limit will be 124,815 pounds whole weight (12,854 fish).
  • The commercial trip limit will be 75 pounds gutted weight.
  • There will be no minimum or maximum size limits for the recreational or commercial sectors.


How did NOAA Fisheries determine the season length for the recreational sector?

  • NOAA Fisheries used 2019 recreational catch rate estimates to predict the recreational landings in 2020.
  • Catch rate estimates were available from the following data sources: (1) red snapper specific surveys for private recreational and charter vessel anglers conducted by all South Atlantic states, (2) Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), and (3) the Southeast Region Headboat Survey.
  • NOAA Fisheries used catch rate estimates from state surveys conducted by South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and MRIP data were used for North Carolina, because the North Carolina red snapper survey did not provide any catch rate and landings estimates.

Why is the recreational season shorter than last year?

  • Last year, the recreational season was open for 5 days.
  • In 2019, recreational landings exceeded the recreational annual catch limit.
  • Since NOAA Fisheries estimates the season length based upon catch rates from the previous year, this year is shorter by one day to reduce the likelihood that the recreational landings would exceed the recreational annual catch limit in 2020.

What are some Best Fishing Practices while fishing for red snapper?

  • The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council identified the following best practices to reduce release mortality and further protect the population as it rebuilds:
  • Avoid areas likely to have red snapper if you already have met your recreational bag limit. If you are approaching your commercial vessel limit, move to a different area.
  • When red snapper are out of season, avoid areas where they are common.
  • Use single hook rigs since the recreational bag limit for red snapper during the proposed limited fishing seasons will be one per person per day. This will potentially reduce the number of red snapper that are caught on one drop.
  • Use non-offset circle hooks while fishing in areas where red snapper are common.
  • Use a dehooking device to remove the hook. Keep fish in the water if you plan to release them or return them to the water as quickly as possible.
  • Use descending devices when releasing fish with signs of barotrauma.