Red Snapper Realities

Lots of anglers were disappointed upon learning that our Texas recreational red snapper season would close at midnight August 1, versus TPWD’s projection of a 97-day season. Many things factored into the closure decision and it is important to understand these in order to temper disappointment with reason. Here’s the long and short of it.

To begin, the U.S. Senate directed NOAA to develop a pilot program that would lead to eventual management of the fishery by the five Gulf States. Federal water red snapper seasons would be conducted under Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) during 2018 and 2019. NOAA still controlled the TAC (total allowable catch) and divided it between the states based upon historic landings data. TPWD requested 16% of the recreational TAC but received only 6.6% – 265,090 pounds. Under the EFP, TPWD was required to monitor catches and close the season when the quota was achieved. Angler participation and harvest data collected during the 2017 and 2018 seasons was the basis from which TPWD projected 97-days for 2019. 

TPWD held public meetings to discover angler preference for structuring the season. Options included opening date, and split season versus continuous fishing days. Feedback indicated a 58% preference for a June 1 opening and continuous fishing days.

So, the recreational fleet set sail on June 1 in greater than expected numbers, aided by uncommonly calm seas and, as expected, the fishing was very good. Seas remained uncharacteristically calm throughout most of the month and continued into July. Word spread and participation boomed. Another factor that forced the early closure came in the weight of fish being brought to the dock – almost one pound heavier than the 2017-18 averages. More fish of greater weight led to achieving the quota earlier than projected.

Back to tempering disappointment; we didn’t get to fish 97 days but the 62 days we were able to fish was a godsend compared with some of the ridiculously short seasons of the recent past. Let’s all recognize that for what it’s worth.

We should also rejoice that great strides were made toward achieving state management of this important and highly-popular recreational fishery. Hopefully Texas will receive a larger share of the TAC when that happens.

There will be plenty of opportunity in coming months to again share with TPWD your preference of opening date and whether to fish continuous days or split-day seasons in 2020. Do not let the opportunity pass you by.

I also want to encourage anglers to continue reporting their catches via the iSnapper mobile device app. This is a voluntary reporting system, and while some may believe we shot ourselves in the foot by reporting our landings this year, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the primary reasons we did not receive a larger share of the TAC in 2019 was because NOAA’s assessment of snapper size and abundance are highly inaccurate, to say the least. Reporting the truth via iSnapper will work to our advantage in the long run.