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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 of 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 60 days beginning in June. It changes every year, based on estimates of current fish populations. The 2022 season for charter vessels ran from June 1 to Aug. 19. The 2023 season began June 1, both for charter (also known as for-hire) and recreational fishing. Officials have not yet announced an end date, but the season will run until the harvest quota of 7,546,000 pounds of snapper is met.

Snapper enthusiasts and seafood lovers got some welcome news in 2021, when the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi announced there were more than 110 million red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, three times more than originally believed. The numbers were the result of a three-year population study.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Red snappers are big business in the Gulf of Mexico. According to figures 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 snappers 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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