Categories: Saltwater

Red Snapper: Did We Get Gypped?

When the original three-day federal red snapper season was announced for Gulf anglers, many of us were understandably a tad bit perturbed. The federal regs have been out of whack for quite some time, which not only harms recreational anglers but perversely, encourages poaching. In fact, so many people were so bent out of shape that the feds rolled back the regs, and gave us 39 weekend days through the summer. Here’s the thing: Texans still got gypped.

Red snapper? What red snapper? I don’t see any snapper around here…

According to the TPWD, the latest stock assessments show that west of the Mississippi, there’s literally twice the red snapper biomass and double the recruitment. In fact, just three years ago record levels of the species were recorded. TPWD trawl data shows increasing abundance of juvenile red snapper. And over the past three years, Texas recreational anglers have accounted for less than seven percent of the total Gulf landings. Seven percent! Yet when you get out to federal waters, Texas snappers and Florida snappers are all regulated the same way.

It gets even more absurd: red snappers have what scientists like to call “high site fidelity.” In other words,they don’t move around much. Some studies have shown they’ll travel less than 10 miles on average, so the fish caught off the coast of one state aren’t likely to affect another state’s catch.

Now, we do want to point out that this fishery was decimated as recently as the 1980s. And no, we don’t want to return to those days, so we recognize that sensible management is necessary. But as of 2008 the number of spawning-sized fish was up by 280 percent, and the average size of red snappers landed in federal waters off the Texas coast had doubled over the past three decades.

What will 2018 hold in store for red snappers off the Texas coast? We simply don’t know yet. But stay tuned, people, stay tuned. And when the feds ask for public comment, remember to pass on all these reasons why we feel like we’re getting gypped.

Lenny Rudow: