Officials negotiating potential expansion of 2017 Gulf red snapper season

Season could be lengthened to include Saturdays and Sundays all summer long has learned negotiations are currently ongoing between the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. House of Representatives and the five Gulf states to potentially expand the just-concluded three-day 2017 recreational red snapper season in federal waters.

In a letter obtained by dated May 23, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Garret Graves (R-Baton Rouge) and 11 other congressmen from Gulf states asked an official with the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C. for more fishing days for recreational anglers.

The three-day federal season previously announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened on June 1 and ended on June 3.

“We strongly urge you to use any authority at your disposal to expand the 2017 private recreational Red Snapper season in federal waters to include Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in June, July and August, as well as July 3 and July 4, consistent with the current health and overall sustainability of the stock,” they wrote to Earl Comstock, director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning. “While this proposal does not address the longer term issues, we hope this proposed solution for the 2017 season will be something you will strongly consider.”

According to an unnamed source with knowledge of the negotiations, all five Gulf states’ wildlife and fisheries commissions must unanimously agree on how the season expansion would work.

Several different plans are being hammered out and could come from the congressmens’ request, the source said, including:

1. A 27-day season in federal and state waters starting June 17 and ending on Sept. 4 with fishing allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4. Recreational red snapper fishing in both state and federal waters would be closed under this scenario Monday through Friday each week this summer.

2. A 39-day season in federal and state waters starting Friday, June 16 and ending on Sept. 4, with fishing allowed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4. Under this scenario, recreational red snapper fishing in both state and federal waters would be closed this summer Monday through Thursday of each week.

3. With a 27-day season this summer, fall fishing in state waters could potentially happen. If the 39-day option is ultimately selected, there would be no state red snapper season in the fall.

Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meets this Thursday, June 8 at 9:30  a.m. in Baton Rouge. Item No. 15 on their agenda released Monday afternoon reads: “To discuss possible federal action to address historically short federal waters red snapper season.”

According to the source, the other four Gulf states’ commissions are likely to discuss this in the next week.

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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and