There’s still time to voice your ideas on an amberjack season for next year.
Local captains Scott Robson and Jim Green recently attended a Gulf Council meeting in San Antonio, Texas, where the amberjack season for next year was discussed.
Robson said the council voted to keep amberjack closed on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to open it July 1.
However, that date is not set in stone, Robson said.
There will be another meeting of the Gulf Council on Oct. 4 in Biloxi, Mississippi, where interested parties will be able to give public testimony concerning the fishery.
“We’re still hoping for a spring season,” Robson said.
In recent years, charter boats have been able to keep amberjack until June 1 with another season opening in August.
This year, the amberjack season was cut short on March 24 with no hopes of it reopening until 2018. When amberjack was open, boats were allowed to keep one per angler and they had to measure 34 inches to keep.
The reason for the closure was fishery management data showed that recreational anglers had exceeded their catch limit for 2016, which required the 2017 annual catch limit to be reduced to make up for the overage in 2016.
Robson is still looking for a split season.
“I’m asking for one fish per two people with a limit of six per vessel,” Robson said.
He would like to see the fishery open from March to May and then September to October.
“But if we could only have one month in the spring, I’d say May,” Robson said.
He explained that in March and April they get a lot of spring breakers that are here fishing but in May they need something to help with business.
“In May we need some big fish to bring in business,” Robson said, noting this past May was dead because the amberjack were closed.
He would also like to see a reduction in the size limit, from 34 inches to 30 inches.
“(The regulators) thought the 34 inches was going to be the answer … that it would lower the catch rate,” Robson said.
But instead fishermen had overfished by mid-May in 2016 and in 2017 they had to pay back the overage with a shorter season.
“You reach your (total allowable catch) quicker,” Robson said of the bigger fish.
So with a smaller amberjack, 30 inches, the hopes are the poundage wouldn’t add up as quickly.
During the meeting in Texas, Robson said there was a lot of “written comments” and an “overwhelming” response in favor of a spring season.
Plus Robson said he received “positive feedback” from Roy Crabtree, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, concerning his ideas.
The next meeting is Oct. 4 in Biloxi and a framework for the 2018 amberjack will be discussed.