If you’re planning a red snapper trip this summer, you’re probably better off scheduling it sooner rather than later.
A presentation by a biologist at Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission indicated the season could close as early as mid-July — or possibly make it all the way through the scheduled ending date, which is Labor Day.
“The truth is likely somewhere in between,” said Jason Adriance, finfish program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
When the 39-day extended federal season opened up on June 16, the state made clear its intention to stick to its self-imposed quota of 15 percent of the Gulf’s historical catch, which came out to 1.04 million pounds this year.
Using historical landing rates from 2016, Adriance said the closing could come as early as July 16. However, when applying this summer’s 2017 catch rates, he indicated it’s possible the extended season could make it all the way through Labor Day.
At issue is the lag between when fishing occurs, and the time it takes biologists with LA Creel — the department’s near real-time harvest data collection system — to crunch the numbers and come up with accurate estimates.
For instance, it’s expected that angler effort was quite high during the five consecutive days of pretty good weather over the long 4th of July holiday that started on June 30.
But data from that weekend through Sunday, July 2 won’t be available until early next week. And numbers from the Monday and Tuesday of the July 4th holiday won’t be available until the week after next.
LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet has the authority to close the season when the state’s self-imposed quota is met.
About one-third of the 1.04 million-pound quota was caught before the extended season even started by recreational anglers participating in the state season, as well by charter-for-hire captains and what was harvested during the original three-day federal season that took place June 1-3.
Currently, anglers can only fish for red snapper in federal waters on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Monday, Sept. 4, which is Labor Day — and the last scheduled day of the season.