Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this week that the recreational red snapper season in Gulf waters would be upped to 40 days.
“Florida is a premier fishing destination and saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has a $7.6 billion economic impact in our state every year. Adding additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing not only benefits our visitors but also our Gulf Coast communities,” Scott said in a press release.
“I am pleased to announce this extension today and encourage visitors and residents to start planning their summer fishing trips.”
FWC Chairman Bo Rivard cited the longer seasons set by other Gulf coast states in the announcement, saying it was important for the commission to “find a fair resolution that would provide equal access to red snapper in Florida.”
“FWC worked collaboratively with NOAA Fisheries to come up with a season that would provide access to all of those that choose Florida as their fishing destination. We appreciate the leadership from Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Congressman Neal Dunn and we are excited to announce that extension today.”
Dunn, a Panama City Republican, has been an outspoken advocate of longer red snapper seasons. In 2017, he helped lead a push to extend the proposed snapper season from three to 39 days.
The red snapper season this year will run from June 11 through July 21. The announcement represents a more than two-week increase from the 24-day season the state initially proposed.
Florida is setting the season dates for 2018 and 2019 in both state and federal waters through a fishery-management pilot program, also referred to as an Exempted Fishing Permit.
The 40-day season would apply to both state and federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, though it excludes commercial fishermen. For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are also included, but they are limited to targeting reef fish in Gulf state waters only.
Red snapper is in season year round for Atlantic state waters, though the 2018 season for federal waters in the Atlantic has not been determined according to FWC. In the Gulf, the red snapper population hit critical lows in the 1990s due to overfishing but has rebounded greatly over the past decade.
In both state and federal Gulf waters, the daily bag limit is 2 red snappers per person and catches need to measure in at least 16 inches to be keepers.