The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced Monday that they have made the decision to delay calibration of Red Snapper allocation until January 2023 and approve a moderate increase in the 2021 annual catch limit. Congressman Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, applauded the decision.
“I applaud the Gulf Council’s decision to reject the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) misguided attempts to cut Alabama’s red snapper season after recognizing there is three times the amount of red snapper in the Gulf than they previously estimated,” Carl said. “I’m grateful the Council listened to the advice of local leaders and anglers who know how to manage their own fisheries, instead of listening to D.C. bureaucrats. Moving forward, I urge NOAA to follow the science and stop encroaching on our fishing season.”
A few weeks ago, Carl joined several colleagues on a letter to the U.S. secretary of commerce, the NOAA Fisheries acting regional administrator and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to oppose an unnecessary recalibration of the Red Snapper count.
Following the decision, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Resources Division announced that Alabama state waters and federal waters will open to private vessel anglers for Red Snapper fishing on Friday, May 28, 2021. The season will consist of four-day weekends, Friday through Monday, beginning Friday, May 28, and continue until the private angler quota is projected to be met.
The season dates listed above only apply to anglers fishing from recreational vessels and state-licensed Alabama commercial party boats that do not hold federal for-hire fishing permits. Anglers fishing from federally permitted for-hire vessels have their own 63-day season beginning on June 1, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. local time through August 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. local time.
As in recent years, Alabama will use Snapper Check to monitor landings during the season and will provide semi-weekly updates on outdooralabama.com. The exact Alabama private angler quota has not yet been provided by the National Marine Fisheries service but is anticipated to be similar to the 2020 quota, which was 1,122,662 pounds. When the quota is anticipated to be met, MRD will announce a closure date.
The daily bag limit will be two Red Snapper per person, per day with a minimum size limit of 16 inches total length.
Anglers over the age of 16 must have an Alabama saltwater fishing license (resident or non-resident, annual or trip), and any Alabama resident 65 or older or a lifetime saltwater license holder must have a current saltwater angler registration. The saltwater angler registration is free and available online.
All anglers 16 years of age and older who possess gulf reef fish, including Red Snapper, must have an Alabama Gulf Reef Fish Endorsement, which is available online.
Anglers under the age of 16 are not required to be licensed, possess an Alabama Gulf Reef Fish Endorsement or have saltwater angler registration, but their catch must be included in a landing report.
Each vessel landing Red Snapper in Alabama is required by law to complete one landing report per vessel trip of their harvested Red Snapper through Snapper Check prior to removing the fish from the boat or the boat with the fish being removed from the water. All Red Snapper landed are required to be reported prior to landing regardless of the jurisdiction in which they were caught.
Anglers are also required to report Greater amberjack and gray trigger fish caught and may be included in the same report.
Red Snapper caught from non-powered vessels, piers and the shoreline are required to be reported through Snapper Check and require a Conservation ID number.
A landing report may be submitted through Snapper Check in the Outdoor Alabama app, which is available from Apple and Android stores or online. Paper reports and drop boxes are no longer available.
Participation in a MRD creel survey or being inspected by enforcement officers is not considered reporting. Anglers must still report through Snapper Check even if encountered by MRD staff.
Operators of vessels with an Alabama Commercial Party Boat License without federal for-hire permits must abide by the state season, possess an Alabama Gulf Reef Fish Endorsement for charter vessels and may only fish inside the 9-mile state waters line. An Alabama landing report must be completed when landing Red Snapper in Alabama.
Possession of Red Snapper in state waters while the Alabama season is closed is prohibited. Anglers fishing under another state’s Red Snapper season, must abide by that state’s rules and land fish in that state. Individuals on vessels with Red Snapper may not transit through Alabama state waters while the Alabama season is closed.
Anglers on federally permitted charter vessels may fish in state waters only during the days the state season is open. They may transit with Red Snapper during the days state waters are closed. Once the federal season is closed, they may not fish in state or federal waters. Owners/operators of federally permitted charter vessels are required to possess an Alabama Gulf Reef Fish Endorsement and submit an Alabama Snapper Check landing report prior to Red Snapper, gray triggerfish or greater amberjack being landed in Alabama.
Alabama ADCNR Marine Resource Division Scott Bannon had urged the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to reject the 2021 recalibration. This decision was based on the Great Red Snapper Count by Marine scientists which found that there are actually 110 million Red Snapper two years or older in U.S. waters – three times the 36 million that federal regulators had estimated.
Red snapper are just one of the many saltwater fishes that Alabama anglers may pursue.
Carl represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.