Rodeo ready as regulators aim to reopen snapper season in October

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

No trick, just treat — red snapper will likely be back on the catch list in October.

In a special meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in New Orleans earlier this week, the council voted to increase the 2013 red snapper total quota from 8.46 million pounds to 11 million pounds. The council also agreed that if the National Marine Fisheries Services determines that the unused recreational quota is available, a supplemental season will open Oct. 1 and run continuously until the quota is met.

The supplemental season will be approximately 21 days long, according to a news release from the Gulf Council. Local anglers, fishing in federal waters, had the shortest red snapper season ever this year at 28 days in June.

When word of the extended season for red snapper in October hit the streets, the Destin Fishing Rodeo board voted unanimously Thursday evening to add the area’s signature fish as a category and put it on the leaderboard for the October fishing tournament.

"It couldn't have come at a better time," said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. "We're excited."

The board agreed to add a red snapper category with a first and second place in all five boat divisions: charter boat, private boat, party boat, charter boats under 25, and private boats under 25. There will also be a red snapper daily award.

With the addition of red snapper, the rodeo is looking at an extra $2,000 worth of sponsorship, said John Brashears, rodeo chairman. However, the board was confident that they would be able to secure the extra dollars to foot the bill for the division. Donaldson said she has already had a few people step up to sponsor about half of the divisions, but more is needed.

"We still have room for people to get on the red snapper bandwagon," Donaldson said.

Capt. Jim Green, of the New Florida Girl's American Spirit as well as a rodeo board member, said "this will be the first time in seven years that we get to keep everything." In years’ past, the snapper, amberjack or triggerfish was off the catch list. But as it stands right now, they are all a go.

"It's like walking back 10 years," Green said.

Capt. Trey Windes of the Outta Line was also excited to see red in the rodeo again. He said he doesn't recall ever being able to keep a snapper in the rodeo since he's had his own boat.

"Everybody loves to catch red snapper," Donaldson said. "We really think it will increase our participation."

The exact number of days is uncertain at this point.

According a news release from the Gulf Council, the estimate will be reevaluated when the June recreational landings data becomes available in August.