Get Ready for Red Snapper and Potentially Harmful Desal Discharges

Red snapper anglers have much to celebrate as a projected 97-day season gets underway in federal waters on June 1, 2019.

This marks the second year of greatly expanded fishing opportunity for the recreational sector, under an Exempted Fishing Permit. As recently as 2017, under prior federal management guidelines, recreational angling for this enormously popular species was being squeezed into ridiculously short seasons, as in only a handful of days.

Keep in mind this is a projected 97-day season, not a guarantee of 97 days. The way it works is historic landings data and the likelihood of fishable days for the small boat fleet are entered into a formula that includes Texas’ allocation of the gulf red snapper fishery. If such estimates prove correct, as they did in 2018, the season will last 97 days. However, the season could be closed earlier should the allocation (pounds landed) be met or exceeded over the course of fewer days. Bag and size limits of two snapper per day at 16 inches minimum length will remain in effect in federal waters for the 2019 season.

Under provisions of the recently enacted Modern Fisheries Act, individual gulf states fisheries management agencies will assume management of the red snapper fishery in 2020. While the landings allocations for each state will likely remain the same, TPWD will have greater control of season dates to better accommodate small boat anglers with respect to historic weather patterns in the western Gulf of Mexico. Fishable days in June are often disappointingly few as compared to that which Florida and Alabama anglers enjoy.

Snapper anglers are reminded of the importance to report landings via the iSnapper app on mobile devices and are also encouraged to use devices such as SEAQUALIZER to reduce barotrauma when releasing red snapper.

Another very important issue that has surfaced recently, and with potential great impact upon the Corpus Christi Bay ecosystem, the Port of Corpus Christi (POCC) has filed permits seeking permission for discharge of brine water from a proposed seawater desalination plant. One permit is for a discharge of 50 million gallons per day near the La Quinta Channel. The other is for 95 million gallons per day at Harbor Island.

TPWD Coastal Fisheries/Water Resources Branch staff have met several times with POCC and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to voice concerns, stressing the potential impact such high-salinity discharges could have upon estuarian ecology in that region.

The La Quinta Channel permit is on hold for now but TCEQ has issued a draft permit for the Harbor Island site. A public meeting was held in Port Aransas on April 8 with 492 comments received, including 81 requests for public hearings. Almost every comment voiced concerns of potential damage to natural resources, with “move the discharge offshore” a common theme.

Concerned recreational anglers are encouraged to keep an eye on developments. Most everybody recognizes the eventual necessity for desalination to produce potable water but nobody wants to see potentially harmful discharges into Corpus Christi Bay.