‘Sticking it to us’ - A takeaway of red snapper days has local captains reeling

TINA HARBUCK
Deckhands aboard the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit filled the racks with red snapper during the opening days of snapper season last year. Capt. Jim Green of the Spirit says things will look a lot different this summer due to the shortened season.

With word of an 11-day red snapper season coming down Thursday, local charter boat captains were outraged.

"Nothing good," can come from the shortened season said Capt. Don Dineen as he stepped off the Sure Lure Thursday evening.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to implement an emergency rule that results in an 11-day red snapper recreational season for 2014, to prevent the recreational sector from exceeding its quota.

The season will start June 1 and the bag limit will remain at two fish per person; however, the 11-day season is a drastic cut from last year's 44 days. For the last several years, the for-hire fisherman has seen a cut in the number of days to access the red snapper fishery.

"I'm not very happy," said Capt. Steve Haeusler of the First Light. "They are sticking it to us again. It's not going to help our business."

Capt. Haeusler said he already had about 20 fishing trips on the books for the month of June.

"I think it's going to make a lot of people mad. It's not very fair."

Capt. Kirk Reynolds of the SS Enterprise said his June was already filling up as well.

"I hope they don't cancel just because of red snapper," Reynolds said. "June is usually a good month for us.”

However, summer may look a lot different on the docks.

"We're screwed," said Capt. Jim Green of the party boat New Florida Girl's American Spirit. "This summer is going to be a wash.

"We were counting on a 40-day period and our customers were counting on us to be able to access those fisheries. So those people are screwed too. It's really sad," Green said.

The red snapper is the "benchmark fish" for this area and "it is the targeted fish by party boats," Green said.

"But we keep getting screwed," he said.

For Capt. Mike Eller of the Lady Em, the cut in days could mean several things as well.

"Heartache, grief, possible potential loss of business, and potential angry clients who booked in the 40-day season we were told we were going to get," Eller said.

Eller, like others, already has a number of trips on the books for June.

And although red snapper will be closed after the first 11 days of June for federally permitted boats, vermillion snapper, white snapper, mackerel and scamp will still be on the catch list.

"It is what it is," said a disappointed Eller.