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Fish for red snapper from a charter boat

Red snapper were almost fished out of existence in the 1970s and 1980s. Federal regulations and fishery management have brought the population back. Now, anglers and regulators tussle over fishing days each year.

The biggest, tastiest red snapper are caught off charter boats that take anglers into federal waters 9 miles from the shoreline. While you can catch red snapper in state waters year-round, charter fishing for the Gulf’s most popular seafood is limited to about 30 days in June. It changes every year, based on estimates of current fish population.

Recreational anglers with their own boats can also fish for red snapper in federal waters, where the biggest fish live, but the season is much shorter than that for charter boats. The season can also change at a moment’s notice, like it did in the summer of 2017. The best way to keep track is to sign up for the 101 Fun Things to do in Corpus Christi twice-monthly email newsletter.

The length of any year’s season, which is usually in early June, is not announced until early to mid-May. Federal authorities announced the shortest season ever — three days — for 2017. Protests from local leaders led to a series of public hearings. The season was then reopened for three-day weekends of fishing through Labor Day.

The trade-off was that Texas, the only Gulf state that allows year-round fishing in state waters, would have to ban fishing there on weekdays through the summer.

The 39-day season could come at a high price. If authorities find the red snapper population was overfished, they could declare NO season in 2018. That determination is made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

However, all that could change in the next few years. A two-year study being led by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi scientists is conducting the largest-ever count of the red snapper fishery. The $10 million study will count red snapper fish by fish throughout the Gulf of Mexico to determine the growth rate and location of the fish from Texas to Florida. Findings will affect future decisions on fishing seasons in the Gulf of Mexico.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Red snapper are big business in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the most recent figures, which are from 2015, commercial red snapper fishing in the Gulf reached $53.7 million. It created 734 jobs and generated $19.4 million in labor income in the five Gulf states.

One reason is because they are so tasty. They are also a healthy food choice. Red snapper are a lean source of protein, low in calories and rich in selenium, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and potassium.

Red snapper also put up a good fight when reeling them in. No wonder recreational anglers look forward to the June season each year.

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