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Red Snapper Mess Even Mess-ier

If I had to pick a best-ever all-star team of fishery officials one name would pop up real quick.

Tom Fraser.

We need him now.

Tom would I think lead us out of this amazingly dumb red snapper imbroglio whereby we have seasons of a couple days, or confusing closures. And we even face situations where commercial takes of red snapper may be allowed even while any personal-use angling could be banned.

For eight years (four as chairman), Dr. (fisheries professor) Tom Fraser was a key leader of the Marine Fisheries Commission, now the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

He had found himself out gunned by the influential gillnet industry and eventually endorsed the constitutional net ban of 1995.

It was good to see Tom's name just a few days ago on a copy of an email he sent to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Not mincing words the former commissioner said anglers are being "shafted." He endorsed a message to the Council from another West Coast fisherman about the extreme overabundance of red snapper.

Here's a copy of David Butcher's message to the federal Council:

“I am sorry to see that your turf war with the state has further restricted the recreational red snapper fishery in our area. You may or may not be aware that small red snapper are now appearing off of our area in 100 feet of water and are ubiquitous beyond 120 feet along with much larger fish. At 200 feet they are by far the most numerous species we encounter and at that depth usually 8 to 17 pounds. Unfortunately at that depth many of the larger fish don't survive being caught even with care. Usually if we start catching these truly beautiful fish, we move. However, they have become sufficiently numerous to make fishing for several other species difficult. “Regarding your pending season as it applies to Southwest Florida. If we were to fish solely for red snapper, we have a 60-mile run to 120 feet (95 miles to 200 feet). As the fish are plentiful, it should take 5 to 15 minutes to limit out. We can do this on 3 successive days if the weather is good which is not common. If we continue to fish for other species, the red trail of death behind the boat of the larger fish will likely ensue. “If I actually thought that red snapper were over-fished in our area sufficiently to limit our season to 3 days, I would suggest that all red snapper fishing, recreational and commercial be closed. On the other hand as the season continues to contract with obvious increasing abundance, is there any reason for us to care about the fishery? Should we worry about the bycatch that we encounter as we have really no share of the red snapper fishery?”

So the snapper wars will rage on. Meanwhile we suggest once again that a one or two fish year-round recreational fishery be implemented as a matter of common sense.

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine July 2017

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