Outdoors

What you need to know about red snapper fishing this season

Red Snapper season opens in state and federal waters on May 25. An exempted fishing permit allows private fishermen and charter boat fishers to go out to 200 nautical miles from the Mississippi Coast. Charter boats and other for-hire boats can fish for them in federal waters starting June 1.
Red Snapper season opens in state and federal waters on May 25. An exempted fishing permit allows private fishermen and charter boat fishers to go out to 200 nautical miles from the Mississippi Coast. Charter boats and other for-hire boats can fish for them in federal waters starting June 1. Sun Herald File

Recreational fishermen can start catching the sweet-tasting red snapper up to 200 nautical miles from the Mississippi Coast starting May 25.

Charter boats and other for-hire boats can take anglers into federal waters starting June 1.

A new federal permit allows private fishermen to catch this popular saltwater fish in all state and federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico under a quota system, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources said.

Federal waters extend to 200 nautical miles south of the Coast. Mississippi waters extend 9 nautical miles, south from the barrier islands.

Mississippi's quota is 137,949 pounds, to be split between recreational fishermen and the state for-hire anglers, or charter boats. The quota is 135,149 pounds for recreational fishermen and 2,800 pounds for charter boats.

The season is expected to run through Labor Day, Sept. 3, but it will close if the quotas are reached. The season could close between July 9-22 to make sure the state's quota hasn't been met before Labor Day, MDMR said. It also depends on how many pounds are caught before July 4.

How to keep track

So how will you know how many red snapper are caught?

There's an app for that. Tails N' Scales, a mandatory electronic reporting program, is an app that recreational fishermen and charter boats owners are required to report their catches.

You can download the app via iTunes and Google Play. You also can register at www.tailsnscales.org. If you don't have a smartphone or computer, call 1-844-MSSNAPP (677-7277).

MDMR monitors the catches and quotas using the program. Anyone who fishes for red snapper is required to register. Anglers receive a trip number and must report their catch within 24 hours.

You can't receive a new trip number if you haven't reported the catch from your last trip, MDMR spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said.



Anyone caught fishing for red snapper without a trip number will be fined and their fish seized.

"This program allows Mississippi anglers more opportunity and greater flexibility to harvest red snapper," said Matt Hill, director of MDMR’s finfish bureau. "It also allows the agency to closely monitor the harvest using the Tails N’ Scales Program.”

Other state waters

NOAA has issued permits to let the five Gulf states set their own red snapper seasons.

Alabama's 47-day season starts June 1.

The start date in Louisiana is undetermined. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is expected to decide at its May 3 meeting, its website shows.

Florida's start date is June 1 for recreational fishermen and June 11 for charter boats, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Florida's pleasure anglers will have a 40-day season.

The start date in Texas is June 1, giving recreational fishermen an 82-day season, Texas Parks and Wildlife says on its website. A date has not bee set for charter boats.

An ongoing issue

Federal law requires fishery managers to prevent overfishing.

Red snapper, once considered the king of the Gulf, had been overfished until catch limits were set in 2007. Red snapper are called such because of their scale color and snapping teeth. They are known for their versatility and delicate flavor.

A red snapper can grow up to 50 pounds and 40 inches, and can live more than 50 years, oceanconservancy.org says.

Most red snapper harvested in the Gulf are less than 10 years old, NOAA reports. Preventing overfishing can increase the chance that the number of older fish will increase and produce more fish than the younger ones.

For questions on the program, call 228-697-5762.

MDMR announced the season openings after permits were approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The program, known as the exempted fishing permit, is a two-year pilot program.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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