DeSantis drops into Destin to announce red snapper season extended to 57 days

Tom McLaughlin
Northwest Florida Daily News

DESTIN — Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped anchor at Destin Harbor on Thursday to announce this year's Gulf red snapper season would be extended to 57 days, making it the longest for anglers since the state began managing the species.

"Additional days of fishing means families will be able to take advantage of the holiday weekends to have a great time off on Florida's coast and in places like Destin," DeSantis said. "We know they love red snapper here in Destin, and why not? It's a great thing that's been going on since the 1800s. We appreciate what it means to the culture of our state and we really appreciate what it means to the economy of our state."

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The state's 2021 red snapper season ran for 54 days, from June 4 through July 28. Snapper fishing was legal in federal waters off Florida for 63 days. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) estimates that the fishing industry has generated 120,000 jobs and contributes $13.8 billion to the state's economy, DeSantis said.

This year's season will include both summer and fall sessions. The 45-day summer season will begin June 17 and run to July 31. A 12-day fall season, the longest since the beginning of state management programs, will allow snapper fishing on Oct. 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23. Snapper fishing will also be legal over Veteran's Day weekend, Nov. 11-13, and Thanksgiving Day weekend, Nov. 25-27.

Gov. Ron DeSantis poses for photos Thursday morning on the docks at A.J.'s Seafood & Oyster Bar in Destin, where he announced an extension of the Gulf red snapper fishing season.

"We're proud of the fishing industry and what that means for the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "We are the fishing capital of this country, really the fishing capital of the world." 

Recreational fishing one of the largest drivers of the Northwest Florida economy, and "up here in the Panhandle the red snapper is one of the most important fish species," Justin Leake, owner of a business called Panama City Inshore, told those assembled for the 9 a.m. announcement.

"This is a really big step in the right direction," Leake said.

Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department Director Jennifer Adams congratulated the governor on his choice of venue for the announcement.

"For decades we've been proud to be known as the World's Luckiest Fishing Village,   and as you stand here today in Destin Harbor, you can see why," Adams said. "We are home to the largest fleet in the nation with more than 300 for-hire fishing operations. There are more than 2 million fishing trips taken annually in Destin-Fort Walton Beach."

With the Destin Fishing Rodeo leaderboard as a backdrop, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced during a press conference Thursday morning at A.J.'s Seafood & Oyster Bar that the Gulf red snapper season has been extended to 57 days.

She said that in 2019 recreational saltwater for-hire fishing pumped $74 million into the local economy and accounted for 830 jobs.

Adams credited the county's innovative artificial reef program for much of the area's success as a red snapper fishery, and said the county will invest almost $3 million more this year to enhance that program.

The impact of the for-hire fishing industry "extends beyond the docks" by luring visitors who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on things like lodging, dining and recreation, she said.

Rodney Barreto, chairman of the FWC, told those attended the announcement that the decision to extend this year's snapper season was data driven. 

"We looked at the data and we realized if we added weekends and kind of broke it up so it wasn't all concentrated into one fishing season, it would give more people the opportunity, especially working people, more opportunity on the weekend to go fishing," he said. 

Barreto also congratulated DeSantis for his efforts to improve the state's environment via clean water initiatives and funding to save the Florida Everglades.

"This is the first governor, who is a Republican governor, who has put all his efforts into the environment to make it better for all Floridians. I want to congratulate the governor on behalf of that," he said.