Hot Topic: Red Snapper

At one time depleted, the Gulf red snapper population has been recovering quickly. However, as the population grew, recreational fishing seasons in federal waters got shorter. This is due to a number of reasons including increased catch rates, increased recreatlional fishing effort, extended state fishing seasons, larger fish, and insufficient monitoring of recreational landings.

In response to this issue, fishery managers have been working to find new solutions for responsibly managing the recreational red snapper fishery and increasing opportunities for recreational fishermen to harvest red snapper. LDWF has implemented and proposed a number of solutions (click each one for details):

Advocating for state management of the recreational red snapper fishery in both state and federal waters

Improving recreational landings data collection through our LA Creel program

Restructuring the recreational red snapper season in state waters

Increasing scientific sampling of red snapper

Securing additional artificial reefs in red snapper habitat

Securing an exempted fishing permit from NOAA Fisheries

Furthering education and awareness about red snapper issues among Louisiana’s fishermen.

Recreational Landings Update

Click graph to enlarge.

These landings data are preliminary and subject to change. The historic rate projection is based on average harvest rates and weights by state charter anglers in state waters and private recreational anglers in state and federal waters from 2015 to 2018. The current rate projection is based on the harvest rates and weights by state charter anglers in state waters and private recreational anglers in both state and federal waters observed during the 2018 red snapper season. These projections are intended to provide general guidance as to what might occur in the future based on what occurred in the past. Weather conditions and other factors could impact landings rates and change when landings reach Louisiana’s quota.

The table below contains preliminary recreational landing data by component and is also subject to change.

2019 Red Snapper Weekly Landings Estimates (Pounds)

Week

Begin Date

End Date

State Charter

Private

Total

Week's Percentage of Allocation

Running Total

Running Percentage of Allocation

21* 5/20/2019 5/26/2019 987 76,622 77,609 10% 77,609 10%
22* 5/27/2019 6/2/2019 1,609 103,481 105,090 13% 182,699 23%
23* 6/3/2019 6/9/2019 1,309 10,944 12,253 2% 194,952 25%
24* 6/10/2019 6/16/2019 1,892 87,701 89,593 11% 284,545 36%
25* 6/17/2019 6/23/2019 647 8,458 9,105 1% 293,650 37%
26* 6/24/2019 6/30/2019 8,150 39,113 47,263 6% 340,913 43%
27* 7/1/2019 7/7/2019 2,472 118,270 120,742 15% 461,655 58%
28* 7/8/2019 7/14/2019 0 0 0 0% 461,655 58%
29* 7/15/2019 7/21/2019 2,647 45,180 47,827 6% 509,482 64%
30* 7/22/2019 7/28/2019 146 19,502 19,648 2% 529,130 66%
31* 7/29/2019 8/4/2019 0 86,164 86,164 11% 615,294 77%
32* 8/5/2019 8/11/2019            
Average Weekly Landings 1,805 54,130 55,936 7%  

*The season is currently weekends only (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, including the Monday of Memorial Day and Thursday of Fourth of July).

Current Season and Regulations

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission announced the 2019 private recreational red snapper season will begin on Friday, May 24 in both state and federal waters. The season will run weekends only (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, including the Monday of Memorial Day and Thursday of Fourth of July) with a daily bag limit of two fish per person and a 16-inch total length minimum size limit. In addition, to fish for or possess red snapper (and other reef fish) in federal waters, a fisherman must use non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing with natural baits for reef fish and use a dehooking device to remove a hook embedded in a reef fish to release the fish with minimum damage.

The 2019 season will remain open until private recreational landings approach or reach Louisiana’s private recreational allocation of red snapper approved under the EFP for 2019 (about 816,000 pounds), according to landings estimates from LA Creel.

Louisiana is operating under its second year of an EFP which allows the state to manage the private recreational red snapper season in state and federal waters. Under the EFP, participating anglers are allowed to fish red snapper in the state territorial seas and adjoining federal EEZ, from shore to 200 nautical miles, during the season set by the LDWF Secretary or Commission. NOAA Fisheries continues to regulate federal for-hire vessels (charter and headboats). State charter captains (those who do not have a federal Gulf of Mexico charter permit for reef fish) may only fish for red snapper in state waters when the state recreational red snapper season is open.

Who

When

Where

Private anglers*

Beginning May 24, 2019 (weekends only—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—plus Memorial Day and Fourth of July)

State and federal waters

State charter boats (no federal Gulf of Mexico charter permit for reef fish)

Beginning May 24, 2019 (weekends only—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—plus Memorial Day and Fourth of July)

State waters

Charter boats with a valid federal Gulf of Mexico charter permit for reef fish

June 1-August 2, 2019

Federal waters

State waters, only when the federal season overlaps the Louisiana state season and if you have a Louisiana charter license

*All anglers must possess valid Louisiana Basic and Saltwater Recreational Fishing Licenses as well as a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP) to fish for red snapper in state and federal waters. Exception: Anglers fishing on a charter boat are covered under the charter captain’s ROLP.
State waters – within the 9 nautical mile state water boundary
Federal waters – 9 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles

Current Stock Status and Assessments

Updated NOAA Fisheries Stock Assessment
In April 2018, NOAA Fisheries just released an updated stock assessment for Gulf red snapper. According to this latest assessment, the Gulf red snapper stock is no longer overfished and overfishing is not occurring, but it has not yet rebuilt to the established Gulfwide biomass target. The Gulf red snapper stock continues to increase; however, a healthy population requires an appropriate mix of fish of different ages. The Gulf red snapper population still contains too few older (greater than 20 years) individuals. Red snapper can live a long time (almost 60 years), and the older red snapper females produce more, higher quality eggs. Restrictions on harvest of red snapper are designed not only to increase red snapper abundance but also to allow red snapper to reach older, potentially more productive ages so the population can fully rebuild.

Sea Grant Population Estimate Project
With a growing red snapper population, fishermen are seeing more and larger red snapper in the Gulf and have challenged the results of recent stock assessments. In response, Congress awarded Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant $10 million for a two-year project to independently estimate the population size of red snapper in U.S. waters of the Gulf. From 2017 to 2019, fisheries experts from the Gulf and beyond, including LDWF, are participating in this project, dubbed the Great Red Snapper Count. Results from this project will be compared with stock assessment results to see how and why there are any differences between them. The goal of this project is to ensure the best management possible for this fishery.

Biology Basics

Age

Reproduction

Size and Growth

Habitat and Migrations

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do red snapper stock assessments include data collected on red snapper populations at oil and gas platforms and artificial reefs located off Louisiana?

2. As the red snapper population in the Gulf grew, why did the private recreational red snapper seasons in federal waters get shorter?

3. Who manages the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico?

4. How is the total catch of Gulf red snapper allocated between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors?

5. Who are the Council members?

6. What is the difference between overfishing and overfished?

7. How does LDWF know how much red snapper Louisiana’s recreational fishermen catch?

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Related Links

Red Snapper Biology Brochure

Red Snapper Management Fact Sheet

NOAA Fisheries Red Snapper Management Feature

Fish Friendly Practices for Recreational Angling

Catch and Release Fishing (including information on dehooking, descending, and venting tools)