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Atlantic Red Snapper Season in 2017 Approved

NOAA Fisheries announces red snapper recreational mini-season and commercial catch limits

At the request of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and working closely with NOAA Fisheries, an interim annual catch limit has been approved that will open the red snapper fishery to limited harvest in 2017. NOAA Fisheries announced today that the red snapper recreational fishery in the South Atlantic region will open for two consecutive 3-day weekends beginning November 3rd. Recreational fishermen may harvest red snapper in federal waters (from 3 to 200 nautical miles) November 3rd through 5th and November 10th through 12th. The recreational bag limit is 1 fish per person/day and there is no minimum size limit. The commercial fishery will open November 2nd with a 75-pound (gutted weight) trip limit and no minimum size limit. Commercial trip limits are limits on the amount of the applicable species that may be possessed on board or landed, purchased, or sold from a vessel per day.

“We sincerely appreciate the decision by the Secretary of Commerce to allow limited harvest of red snapper this year,” said Council Chair Charlie Phillips. “Approving the Council's request for an interim catch limit for 2017 will allow fishermen limited access to the resource as the stock continues to rebuild, provide an economic boost to fishing communities impacted by Hurricane Irma, and present an opportunity for data to be collected from both recreational and commercial fishermen.” The 2017 red snapper season is based on the approved interim annual catch limit of 42,510 fish. The recreational sector is allocated 71.93% of the total annual catch limit.

During the open red snapper season, state marine resource agency personnel will be conducting surveys at various locations and collecting samples from fishermen. Anglers are encouraged to cooperate with samplers and to provide carcasses (after fillets have been removed) for data collection.

Fishermen are also urged to use best fishing practices to minimize the number of released red snapper and help improve the likelihood that released fish will survive. “The red snapper fishery has remained closed since 2014 because mortality estimates of the number of released fish exceeded the annual catch limit,” explained Captain Mark Brown, Council Vice-Chair and a full-time charter captain based in Mt. Pleasant, SC. “It is imperative that we use best practices. The key to having future access to red snapper lies in reducing the mortality of fish that are released.”

Best Practices:

  • Once you have met your red snapper bag limit, move away from areas likely to have red snapper. If you are approaching your vessel limit, move to a different area. When red snapper are out of season avoid areas where they are common.

  • Use single hook rigs – since the bag limit is one per person, this potentially reduces the number of red snapper caught on one drop.

  • If you catch a red snapper and plan to release the fish, keep the fish in the water as you remove the hook and return the fish back to the water as quickly as possible. Tips on how to use a dehooking device
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  • Recognize signs of barotrauma: bulging eyes, stomach protruding from mouth, distended intestines, bloated belly. Information on signs of barotrauma.

  • If the stomach is protruding from the mouth of the fish, do not puncture or push the stomach back in before releasing the fish.

  • Use descending devices if releasing fish with barotrauma. There are a variety of devices available. Information on different types of descending devices and their use.

  • New Pilot Program for Recreational Reporting

    Recreational anglers will have the opportunity to report individually about their red snapper fishing trips via a voluntary pilot program being tested for the first time as the red snapper mini-season opens. is a new web portal that allows anglers to report their catches using photos to document lengths, as well as depths fish are caught, release techniques, hook type, and other information. Anglers are encouraged to register online and to take photos and keep written records of the information while offshore.

    Additional information on this pilot program as well as other items of interest for the upcoming red snapper season is available from the Council's website at:

    Season for 2018

    In addition to the emergency rule request to allow an opening this year, the Council also approved measures in Amendment 43 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan during its September 25, 2017 meeting. The amendment would revise the process for calculating the annual catch limit with the intent to allow a red snapper season in 2018. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the recreational fishery would open the second Friday in July (July 13, 2018) and the commercial fishery the second Monday in July (July 9, 2018).

    The catch rate during the 2017 season will be considered in setting the length of any 2018 season, so fishermen are encouraged to follow the best fishing practices and to be conservative in how many red snapper they catch during 2017. The amendment is currently under review and an announcement from NOAA Fisheries about a 2018 red snapper season is expected in early 2018.

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