Tallahassee’s Chris Green is a vocal proponent of a movement to lengthen the three-day federal red snapper season that ended Sunday.
He created a Facebook page Lengthen Federal Red Snapper to promote a boat rally Sunday off Dog Island, held in conjunction with a series of such demonstrations organized in fishing ports in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
The Dog Island rally had modest participation, after all it was the Sunday following a busy three-day hunt for red snapper.
But it looks like Green’s efforts may be paying off in Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is planning a special meeting for 2 p.m. Friday, June 9, to discuss the Gulf red snapper season for private recreational anglers in state and federal waters.
“Recent discussion between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Gulf states indicate that there may be a way to add a substantial number of additional red snapper fishing days in federal waters this summer, but Florida would have to give days to get days,” reads a news release sent out by FWC Tuesday afternoon.
Among those taking part in the rally were brothers David and Chris Copeland, and Chris’ wife Erin, who proudly displayed their sign urging a longer federal red snapper season, a fraction of the 180 days it was a decade ago.
“It needs to be several weekends. Three days is ridiculous,” said Chris Green.
The six-person Copeland clan had been out fishing the days before, about 45 miles southwest of Dog Island, and everyone caught at least one snapper, and three caught the limit,
“We did go a long ways offshore,” he said. “You can’t get your bait down without getting a snapper.”
That kind of deep water is where the snappers bite best, and it’s why the short season in those waters more than nine miles offshore rankle these recreational anglers so much.
David Copeland said federal regulatory officials are relying on outdated data to shape their season, and that he would like to see a regionwide annual stock assessment that is used to make specific determinations of where fishing should be allowed, and where it should be curtailed.
He also faulted quotas that he thinks give the commercial fishery, and charter book captains, too great a share of the overall snapper population.
He said that because restaurants prefer 16 to 20-inch snappers, commercial fishermen and charter captains have been known to throw the bigger ones back, where they die or are eaten by sharks.
“I have no problem paying $2 more on my license for some type of stock assessment,” David Copeland said.
Green’s fiancée Brooksanne Benites said the complexity of state and federal seasons, which makes keeping fish a perplexing challenge, needs to be simplified. “They’ve gone out of their way to make it as difficult as possible,” she said.
Discussions on tap for Friday’s FWC meeting will focus on aligning a possible expanded federal water season on weekends and holidays through the summer with existing seasons for state waters across all five Gulf states, including Florida. Staff plan to ask commissioners for direction and guidance regarding this season alignment, which would require giving up some state waters’ weekday fishing days through the summer and possibly in the fall. These changes would apply only to private recreational anglers; no changes to the lengthier commercial or recreational for-hire seasons are being considered.
“Red snapper is a popular and economically-important species in Florida, and the FWC is committed to providing as much sustainable recreational fishing opportunity as possible,” said Nick Wiley, FWC executive director. “This meeting will give our commissioners the opportunity to discuss expanding recreational red snapper fishing opportunities in federal waters, to hear from the public and stakeholders, and provide direction to staff.”
The 2017 red snapper season for private recreational anglers in Florida federal waters was June 1-3. In state waters, the 2017 season is currently 78-days total. The season opened for Saturdays and Sundays starting May 6, and has been open daily since May 27. The season is scheduled to continue being open each day through July 9, then reopen Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October, including Labor Day.