AUSTIN – Following a series of public meetings on the Texas coast to seek angler input, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), along with the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC), have reached an agreement that will allow private recreational anglers to catch red snapper in federal waters on weekends this summer.
The framework agreed upon for the 2017 season will allow recreational anglers to fish for red snapper in federal and state waters for 39 weekend days beginning Friday, June 16 and running through Labor Day. The open fishing days each week would be Friday, Saturday and Sunday only with additional open days on Monday, July 3, Tuesday, July 4 and Monday, Sept. 4. Red snapper harvest would be closed in state and federal waters Monday through Thursday each week except on the days noted above surrounding national holidays. Texas state waters will then remain open for the duration of the fall season starting Sept. 5.
After a disappointing three-day federal fishing season for private recreational anglers, discussions developed between the five Gulf states, Gulf state congressional offices and the USDOC to explore ways to extend the federal recreational angler red snapper season this summer. TPWD sought public input on different options being proposed to extend the season, which involved a trade-off, closing some days of fishing in Texas waters from the shore out to nine nautical miles in exchange for more fishing days where both state and federal waters would be available for recreational anglers.
“For years we have heard loudly and unambiguously from outraged recreational anglers who have only seen their fishing seasons get shorter in federal waters,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “Based on recent public comments, we think this option, which is for this year only, provides some much needed recreational opportunity for Texas anglers, as well as important economic benefits for our coastal communities.”
According to the latest red snapper stock assessment, both recruitment and biomass has been twice as high in the western Gulf (west of the Mississippi River) as compared to the eastern Gulf. Additionally, several of the stock assessment indices show increasing red snapper abundance in the western Gulf with record highs reported in 2014. TPWD Gulf trawl data also shows increasing abundance over time for juvenile red snapper. All of this data suggests that red snapper populations off of Texas can safely handle the additional landings which result from these extra fishing days. Of note is that over the last three years Texas’ private recreational landings have accounted for less than 7 percent of the total Gulf wide landings.
Recreational anglers can help TPWD collect important red snapper data by downloading the iSnapper app and reporting their landings. By reporting landings, TPWD can have a better understanding of the health and abundance of the red snapper fishery in Texas.
“Active angler participation in our data collection efforts is essential in aiding the department with the sustainable management of this resource,” Smith emphasized.
The size and bag limit for red snapper during the extended federal season days will remain the same; 15 inches and 4 fish per person in state waters and 16 inches and 2 fish per person in federal waters.
Agencies involved in the extension decision include all five Gulf state fish and wildlife agencies in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi; various congressional offices; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration housed in the USDOC, as well as the public and other stakeholders.