Snapping Them Up

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Over the weekend, NOAA Fisheries announced a 79-day red snapper Gulf of Mexico season for federally permitted charter boats. The season will be open seven days a week starting June 1 and closing August 19.

The 2022 season for private recreational anglers opens the Friday before Memorial Day and runs each extended weekend from Friday through Monday until Alabama’s annual quota is projected to be met.

However, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting recently in Orange Beach had some discouraging news about one of the Gulf species that anglers target when red snapper season is closed – greater amberjack.

Kevin Anson, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Marine Resources Division (MRD) representative on the Gulf Council, said recent amberjack assessments have raised concerns about the hard-fighting species that tends to congregate around structure in deeper water.

“The amberjack assessments going back the last 20 years have been indicating the stock is undergoing overfishing and/or is in an overfished status,” Anson said. “We have implemented several management measures for the last 5 to 7 years to try to improve the stock. They have not provided any benefits that we can see at this time. In the short term, we’re going to be looking at management that will try to get us to a point where we don’t exceed the annual catch limit.”

“There are no guarantees the management decisions we make will restore the stock or help us harvest below the annual catch limit, but we have to take some action different than our current management actions,” Anson said. “Although anglers who fish off the coast of Alabama are less affected, gag grouper is also overfished, which will impact our Florida neighbors.”

“It’s in a similar situation (to amberjack),” Anson said. “We’re looking to Florida for some direction on how to handle this. Many recreational and commercial catches of gag grouper come from Florida.”

On the horizon, Anson said the Gulf Council will again be dealing with the reduced number of cobias, especially along the northern Gulf Coast. He said discussions outside the Gulf Council process indicate some anglers are talking about completely shutting the cobia season down to try to get the stock to rebound.

“It was pretty much gangbusters in the spring back in the day, depending on weather and water clarity,” Anson said. “That has disappeared.”

“Some people are worried about red snapper and use the term of ‘localized depletion,’” Anson said. “Our contention is we’ve been penalized in the assessment, and we were never harvesting at the level we could. That’s why we ended up with such big fish and so many fish that it was easy for folks to catch a limit.”

Anglers landing red snapper in Alabama with private boats are required by law to complete one landing report per vessel trip of their harvested red snapper through Snapper Check before the fish are removed from the boat or the boat with the fish is removed from the water. Reporting of greater amberjack and gray triggerfish also is mandatory.

The best and easiest way to comply with the reporting requirement is through the Snapper Check feature found on the Outdoor AL app. The app is available from Apple and Android stores. Reports can also be submitted online at this link. Paper reports and drop boxes are no longer available. Visit this website for information about the Reef Fish Endorsement.

“Also, don’t forget the DESCEND Act goes into effect this year. The act requires all vessels that are fishing for reef fish in federal waters to have a venting tool or descending tool on board and ready to use when fishing. The goal of the Act is to reduce the effects of barotrauma to the fish, which will the increase the survival rate of discarded fish and improve the sustainability of the resource.”


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Fred Hunter

Fred Hunter

WBRC First Alert Meteorologist Fred Hunter was born in Alabama in the historic town of Ft. Payne. He has lived, attended school, raised his family and worked in the South all his life.