U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently approved a request by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries to allow limited recreational harvesting of red snapper in federal waters, according to Doug Haymans, policy coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Haymans said the recreational harvesting of red snapper in federal waters began Friday. The limited season dates include through July 13, July 18-20 and July 25-26.
Anglers will be allowed to catch one red snapper per day with no size restrictions, but there is a catch to the limited open season.
Nancy Butler, DNR’s Coastal Resource Division communication outreach, said the state is working with NOAA Fisheries to collect data on South Atlantic red-snapper populations. The state is asking fishermen and fishing guides to help with the population assessment by turning in the filleted carcass of any red snapper they catch. She said the Marine Sportfish Carcass Recovery Project will enable biologists to determine the size, age and gender of the saltwater fish being caught offshore.
According to NOAA’s FishWatch: U.S. Seafood Facts, red snapper’s popularity led to their being overfished by commercial fishermen. With management plans and strategies in place, however, NOAA’s website said overfishing is no longer taking place and fish populations appear to be growing. The website does not say red-snapper populations have recovered.
“We don’t really know,” Haymans said. “The most recent (population) assessment hasn’t been completed. It’s a year-long process, and we look at 70 fish species each time. Our goal is to assess every species every five years.”
Butler said the last assessment reported that 86 red snapper were landing in Georgia, ranging in age from 1 to 25 years old, with 91 percent 10 years old or older.
Haymans provided the Courier with additional information from NOAA Fisheries that noted the commercial season for red snapper opens Monday. Commercial fishermen are allowed to harvest 75 pounds gutted weight per daily trip. There is no size limit. NOAA Fisheries will announce the end of the commercial season when the projected annual catch limit is met.
He also provided biological information about red snapper from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. In addition to distinguishing red snappers by their pinkish-red body, long, triangular snout and red eye, the webpage said red snapper are “found offshore on the continental shelf.” Adults may live more than 20 years and grow up to 35 pounds.
Haymans was asked to define “federal waters” and if someone fishing for red snapper in the Intracoastal Waterway, would he or she have to take part in the population assessment.
“No, federal waters are 3 to 200 miles offshore,” he said. “Besides, you’re not going to catch red snapper in the Intracoastal Waterway. They’re a deep-water fish.”
Butler said some locations for Marine Sportfish Carcass Recover Project freezers include Halfmoon Marina at 171 Azalea Road in Midway, Shellman Fish Camp at 1254 Bland Road NE in Townsend and Fort McAllister Marina at 3203 Fort McAllister Road in Richmond Hill. Anglers and guides are asked to use the catch cards and plastic bags at each freezer to stow away their fish carcass and record date and length of trip, departure location and depth fished.