After high seas and rough weather earlier this month put a damper on the first recreational red snapper “mini-season” since 2014, officials have opened an additional season for three days in December.
The “recreational harvest” of the sought-after species will reopen in South Atlantic federal waters for Dec. 8 through Dec. 10, according to a bulletin issued Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries office.
That office announced in October that it was opening two three-day weekend mini-seasons in November after a September vote from South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, or SAFMC, gave a nod to the idea after years of closures.
Officials set the recreational catch limit for the two weekends at 29,656 fish, but the November weather wasn’t really conducive to fishing.
“As of November 16, 2017, preliminary estimates of recreational harvest indicate that the catch limit has not been caught, likely due to inclement weather,” the NOAA bulletin says. “Harvest projections show that an additional three-day opening for red snapper by the recreational sector would not result in harvest exceeding the 2017 recreational catch limit.”
Guy Spear, owner of MisStress Sportfishing Charters, had hoped those original November days would bring in some extra business, but he ended up not able to fish at all.
“Only one day out of the whole six was actually fishable,” he told The Record on Monday. “And it was only fishable if you had a 40-foot boat.”
“I made it out about two miles off shore and turned around and came back,” he said of the first open November day, which was the calmest of the six.
“Every other day was monstrous to very large,” he said.
Officials closed the red snapper fishery in South Atlantic federal waters in 2010 amid concerns that the population had been over-fished (regulations are different in the Gulf of Mexico). But fishermen were allowed to enjoy abbreviated recreational seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Then in 2015, NOAA closed the fishery completely after implementing a process from the SAFMC for determining when to allow harvesting.
And it stayed closed until the council made the move toward the November seasons after pushback in recent years from fishermen who say the red snapper have grown in numbers in the waters they fish regularly and have to work to avoid them.
Spear said that remains the case.
“The fish are there,” he said. “You are having a hard time getting the bait through the snapper to catch the black sea bass or vermilion snapper.”
Which is why he is anxious to get back out there in December and said he already has customers who are too.
“I made three phone calls and I am booked all three days,” he said.
The recreational bag limit for red snapper during the three-day reopening is one fish per person per day with no minimum size limit.