JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Red snapper mini season opens Friday and if past years are any indication, expect long lines and waits at area boat ramps and popular offshore spots. The mini season is Friday through Sunday this weekend and next weekend. This year's mini season also falls during the Greater Jacksonville Fishing Tournament which will exacerbate the crowds at boat ramps and fishing spots, as kingfish and red snapper often are caught in the same area.
Congressman John Rutherford announced the season opening and echoed the feelings of many local fisherman, “The long-awaited South Atlantic red snapper season is finally here, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the great outdoors and go fishing,” said Rutherford. “However, I am disappointed that the season is only five days, despite numerous appeals for a longer season. That’s why I am proud to have secured funding in recently passed legislation to improve the data which federal regulators use to determine fishing days. Better data leads to longer seasons for our recreational and commercial anglers.”
Several organizations urge fisherman to share information about their fish to improve the data available. They ask you download the app MyFishCount to enter the data, "You can provide as much or as little detail about your trip as you would like. The reported information is confidential and stored on a web-based server where you can log into your profile to view your past catch information." You can learn more about the MyFishCount app and download it by clicking here.
Recreational snapper fishermen will get 5 days to fish for the species this year, one less day than last year's mini snapper season. The recreational bag limit will be one red snapper per person per day. This applies to private and charterboat/headboat vessels.
The recreational sector will open for harvest on the following days:
- July 12, 13, and 14, 2019 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) - The recreational season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 12, 2019, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 15, 2019.
- July 19 and 20, 2019 (Friday and Saturday) - The recreational season opens again at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 19, 2019, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 21, 2019.
The commercial sector will open for harvest at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 8, 2019, and will close at 12:01 a.m., local time, on January 1, 2020, 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, 2020, 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 (Amendment 43) (83 FR 35428).
The final rule specified recreational and commercial annual catch limits for red snapper beginning in 2018 and subsequent years.
During the limited openings:
- 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 the commercial sectors.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How did NOAA Fisheries determine the season length for the recreational sector?
NOAA Fisheries used 2018 recreational catch rate estimates to predict the recreational landings in 2019. 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.
Why is the recreational season shorter than last year?
In 2018, the recreational season was open for 6 days. Recreational landings exceeded the recreational annual catch limit during the 6-day fishing season in 2018. 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 2019.
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.
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