Red snapper season is set for 2021 for federal for-hire vessels, Destin captains happy

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Mark your calendar — June 1 to Aug. 3 are the dates set for the 2021 red snapper season for federal for-hire boats with reef fish permits in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Earlier this week the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced the 63-day red snapper season, which is one more day than last year. 

More:Photos from opening day of red snapper season in 2020

“I think it’s great,” said Scott Robson of the charter boat Phoenix.  

“Slowly but surely, we’re getting a few more days,” Robson said. 

In 2015, the federal for-hire boats, which is the majority of Destin’s fishing fleet, had 44 days to catch red snapper. In 2016, 46 days; 2017, 49 days; 2018, 51 days; and 2019, 61 days. 

It want be long before red snapper tails will be hanging on the racks in Destin. The federal for-hire season for red snapper begins June 1 and goes through Aug. 3.

The quota for red snapper in the Gulf for the commercial and recreational sectors is 15.1 million pounds. The recreational sector is allocated 49 percent and the for-hire 42.3 percent. The federal for-hire annual catch target is 91 percent of its quota. The buffer helps to minimize the potential for a quota overage, according to a NOAA fishery bulletin. 

More:2020 - Destin charter fleet looks forward to extra red snapper days

“Because the daily catch rate was slightly lower in 2018-20 than it has been in the recent past, the season length will increase from 62 days last year to 63 days this year,” the bulletin said. 

More:Twilight hauls in largest red snapper in Summer Slam

Capt. Jason Klosterman of the party boat Destin Princess, says the electronic log books are helping to keep track of the number of fish being caught. The charter for-hire vessels each have electronic log books in which they log in how many of each species they catch each day. 

“The season keeps getting longer and we’re not overfishing,” Klosterman said. 

“I’m happy with it … we’re going in the right direction. The log books are helping,” he added. 

Amber Helton hoists a red snapper onto the scales at the Summer Slam fishing tournament in 2020 at the Boathouse Oyster Bar.

And the red snapper continues to rebuild. 

“There are a lot of red snapper,” Robson said, noting they have thrown back many, but not in abundance. 

More:Pounds go up in Summer Slam

“We try not to fish the places where there are a lot of snapper because we don’t want to kill them,” said Capt. Tony Davis of the charter for-hire Anastasia. 

Davis, like most, is pleased with the extra day. 

“Any more days we get is going to be better for everybody,” he said.  

Davis said his books for June are filling up and “July is in hot pursuit.”  

Tennessee anglers on the Kitchen Pass with Capt. Travis Ream brought in a big haul of red snapper and gag grouper during the snapper season last summer. The dates this year are June 1 through Aug. 3.

Capt. Chris Kirby of the charter for-hire Backlash said his June is already three-fourths booked and July is half full “just because of red snapper.” 

During snapper season Kirby said he averages 14-hour days making two trips a day. 

“The red snapper is here,” Klosterman said. “I think we’re going to have a real good season.”  

The bag limit is two per angler and snapper must measure 16 inches to keep.