RED SNAPPER DAYS: 44-day season for federal for-hire charter boats

TINA HARBUCK
When the season opens on June 1, the limit for red snapper will be two fish per angler with a 16-inch minimum length size limit. Raine Chambers and Trevor Sayers of Tampa show off a pair of red snapper they caught on the Fish-N-Fool with Capt. Casey Weldon during the nine day season last year.

Charter boat captains got good news Thursday — the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries put a stamp of approval on a 44-day red snapper season in federal waters starting June 1.

 “I’m happy that the people get to take advantage of a 44-day season this year,” said Capt. Justin Destin as he stood on the back of his boat Full Draw Thursday afternoon.

“They’re a good crowd pleaser,” he said of the snapper.

Last year charter vessels for hire holding a federal permit only had nine days to catch the red snapper in federal waters, which is from nine nautical miles and out.

However, this year with the total allowable catch (TAC) increase for red snapper from 11 million pounds to 14.3 million, both the recreational and commercial sectors will get an increase.

And with the passage of Amendment 40, the recreational sector has been divided into two categories, federally permitted charter vessels/headboats (for-hire) and a private boats.

The two components of the recreational sector will open on June 1, but  will have different closing dates. The private anglers season will end June 11 at 12:01 a.m., while the federal for-hire vessels will end July 15, 12:01 a.m.

“The customers will get to take advantage of a little bit more that Destin has to offer,” Destin said during those 44 days.

Capt. B.J. Teems of Realin’ Scripts was also excited to hear the news.

“Hopefully we’ll run more trips,” Teems said, noting they should burn through a lot of cigar minnows during that time period.

“There are more red snapper today than there has ever been,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”

“Awesome,” were the first words Capt. Chris Couvillion said when he heard the news.

“I’m very excited,” Couvillion said as he and his crew unloaded the days catch off the Sea Winder Thursday afternoon.

“It will be five times the number of days we got last year,” he said.

“And as a first year boat owner, I’m probably gonna survive now,” Couvillion said of the extra days.

“Let’s keep this ball rolling,” he said.