State, federal red snapper seasons expected to open concurrently in May

LDWF waiting to hear back from NOAA on approved catch percentage

After last summer’s extended federal season, harvest numbers Gulf-wide indicate red snapper were overfished by 212 percent — even though Louisiana anglers actually brought less fish to the docks than the state’s historical quota.

Patrick Banks, the assistant secretary of fisheries for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said Friday that despite that over-harvest by other Gulf states, there likely will still be a concurrent state and federal red snapper season in the Gulf this summer because of an exempted fishing permit filed with NOAA Fisheries.

“The hope is they will approve that exempted fishing permit, which is basically a test of state management,” Banks said. “One of the big things about state management is you bring the state and federal season together in one season so you’re not having one open at a different time than the other.

“Obviously, the (Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries) Commission has the power to set a state season if they want to. But we’re hoping they’ll hold off and wait for this EFP to get approved.”

Banks said he requested the state’s historical quota of 1.1 million pounds of snapper in the EFP. NOAA can ultimately approve or reject that number, but it will be up to the individual states to determine season dates.

“We had 42 days last year and we didn’t even make it to the historical quota, and that historical quota is what we’re asking for in this EFP,” he said. “Now it will be up to NOAA whether they give us that historical quota, but I haven’t had any indication from the private rec side that they won’t.

“So my anticipation is the season would be somewhere north of the 40 days we had last year.”

In the EFP application, Louisiana’s season would open the Friday before Memorial Day, May 25, in both state and federal waters, with the actual season structure based on public input. It could range from three-day weekends to seven days a week, depending on what the Commission decides.

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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and