Red snapper management has been a fisheries football kicked back and forth between federal and state managers, snapper fishermen and environmental groups since 1990, when the first serious regulations were imposed on recreational fishermen.
Then, a seven-fish bag limited was added to the already existing 13-inch minimum size. Still, fishing was allowed for 365 days a year. Management steadily slid into a more restrictive mode until the minimum legal size was 16 inches, the bag limit was two, and only three days were allocated to Louisiana fishermen by the Feds.
The follow-up to the state attempting to assert control of waters out to 10 miles offshore was the creation of a state-regulated season that dramatically increased the number of open days for recreational snapper fishing — but only in water that the state claimed.
The Feds responded by deducting the red snapper caught during the state season from the allocation made in federal waters, ultimately producing the diminutive three-day season.
National politics has intervened with the introduction of legislation into the U.S. House of Representatives that would transfer management authority for the recreational red snapper fishery from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the five Gulf states.
Complicating the issue of who manages the resource is the fact that a 39-day extension to the recreational fishing season was granted in the summer of 2017.
As of this printing, the season opening for 2018 in Louisiana was tentatively scheduled for the Friday before Memorial Day (May 25) in both state and federal waters. The official season length had not been determined, but was expected to be at least 40 days long.