BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Recreational anglers could soon have more days to hook red snapper in federal waters. The 2017 federal red snapper season lasted only three days, June 1-3. It was a move met with outrage from many fishermen, especially considering bad weather and choppy seas dominating most of those days.
"As a recreational fisherman and red snapper fisherman for almost 50 years, I was very disappointed in the three day season," said Abbeville fisherman, Gunner Waldmann.
As a result of the short season, the U.S. Department of Commerce has offered to reopen federal waters on the weekends through September 4, in exchange for the five gulf states restricting state seasons to the weekends as well.
There are three options under consideration by officials in all five gulf states:
- Keep the status quo, meaning nothing changes
- A joint state and federal season open Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day for a total of 27 days. This option also includes open fishing for July 3-4 and Labor Day, and the possibility of extending the state season after Labor Day if the biological data allows.
- A joint state and federal season open Fridays through Sundays through Labor Day for a total of 39 days, including July 3-4 and Labor Day. However, there would be no possibility of extending the state season.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) conducted an online survey of nearly 5,000 recreational fishermen. The survey showed 48 percent favor the 39-day joint season, while nearly 33 percent favor the 27-day joint season. While most favor the longer joint season, the LDWF Commission voted Monday to approve the 27-day joint season.
LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet explains this was done for two reasons. First, all five states had to agree on the same plan for the proposal to move forward, and it seems some other state officials objected to the longer season. Second, Montoucet believes the slightly shorter season will allow the state to better monitor the red snapper quota.
"The way we're going to deal with this season, we're going to have to be really careful that we don't overshoot our quota," said Montoucet. "If we can show that we can do that, then that will be a big feather in our cap. I think it will help us get to that end goal of regional management of our fisheries."
Giving states more control over regional waters is something that has the backing of Republican Congressman Garrett Graves, who was among those pushing the federal government to change its season. "I think if you allow states to do it, they're more agile. They can manage the red snapper based on their own states rather than one size fits all," said Graves.
However, Graves says this arrangement for 2017 is just a first step. He says larger legislative changes are needed.
Officials from all five gulf states are expected to discuss their choices with the Department of Commerce on Wednesday. If everyone agrees, the joint season could begin as soon as June 17.