As expected, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council on Thursday approved an 11-day federal recreational red snapper season set to start on June 1.
In light of that vote, a Louisiana Department of Fisheries official announced that effective Monday, April 14, the current weekend-only red snapper season in state waters will be expanded to seven-days-a-week through Dec. 31, 2014.
“The paperwork is moving right now to go to seven days a week,” said Randy Pausina, head of fisheries for LDWF. “It should come out later today.”
Bag and possession limits will remain the same in Louisiana’s expanded season: two fish per person and a 16-inch minimum, Pausina said.
The state plans to monitor Louisiana anglers’ red snapper recreational catch through the LA Creel program, and will be prepared to close the season in the event data indicates the state’s historical catch limit has been reached.
Pausina said the state’s historical catch is roughly 14- to 16-percent of the total recreational allocation.
“So we’ll monitor the seven-day season and if we reach that, we have the option of closing, and we probably will because that gives us the ability to say, ‘We always harvest the 15 percent and we’ll still honor that,'" Pausina said. “What we’re trying to demonstrate is you can in-season monitor and this is how you do it.
"It shows you how with good data and good monitoring you can turn an 11-day season or a 40-day season into a year-round season just like Texas does.”
The 40-day season that had been scheduled was cut short after a federal judge ruled in favor of 21 commercial Gulf fishermen, ruling that federal management of snapper in the Gulf violated quotas set forth in the Magnuson-Steven Fishery Conservation Management Act.
“Once that court case went down, the word on the street was 14 days. I’m just speechless really because it’s comical to me,” Pausina said this morning. “I get the plight of the charter guys who make money because if it’s one extra day, it’s one extra day you can work.
“But from a truly recreational standpoint, I just think it’s a slap in the face. It’s an insult. Just close it. It should be closed if it’s so horrible and everything is so bad and NOAA is totally just mismanaging it, then close it. That’s basically what Louisiana’s recreational anglers said, and that’s what we tried to get to happen.”
In June, 2012, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission took action to extend Louisiana state waters from three miles offshore to three marine leagues, or approximately 9 nautical miles.
LDWF officials encourage fishermen to use caution and their own personal judgement when fishing beyond the three mile boundary that is currently recognized as federal waters, and it is fully expected that federal agents will continue to enforce federal law.
Anglers also are reminded that a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit is required in order to possess certain species, including red snapper. You can obtain or renew a permit free of charge by clicking here.