Amberjack season coming to an end is a tough pill to swallow

Tina Harbuck
Anglers from Oregon came in Thursday on the Huntress with Capt. Mike Graef with five amberjack, a black snapper and several mingo. The last day to keep an amberjack will be Sept. 27.

Although they knew it was coming, the recent word of the amberjack fishery closing as of Sept. 27, doesn’t make it any less easy to swallow for local charter boat captains.

“It’s just going to kill us,” Capt. Tony Davis said Thursday afternoon right after he got in from fishing aboard his boat the Anastasia.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council put out a bulletin Thursday morning that said, “the recreational harvest of greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico will close at 12:01 a.m., local time on Sept. 28, 2015, and remain closed until January 1, 2016.”

During the closure, there will be no recreational harvest or possession of the greater amberjack. And the closure applies in both state and federal waters for vessels that have a valid Gulf of Mexico reef fish charter/headboat permit.

What does this mean for the Destin charter fleet?

“It means it’s going to suck,” Davis said, noting they already can’t fish for other species such as red snapper and triggerfish right now due to closures.

Amberjack was already closed earlier this year from June 1 to July 31. It reopened Aug. 1 with a bag limit of one per angler and it had to measure at least 30 inches to keep.

However, the fishery bulletin says the “2015 landings data indicate the 1,130,000-pound recreational annual catch target will be harvested by Sept. 27,” thus the reason for the closure.

When the fishery opens back up in January of 2016 there is talk of an increase in size limit up to 34 inches.

“They should have increased the size when they opened it (Aug. 1) and left it open,” Davis said.

“It doesn’t matter what size, as long as they (their customers) have an opportunity to catch one,” Davis added.

“It’s just going to make it tougher,” said Capt. Jason Mikel of the Finest Kind.

Mikel explained that amberjack is an easy fish that every body can catch and have a good time with.

“It’s just going to put more pressure on the grouper,” Mikel said.

“Amberjack fishing is good … there is still plenty out there,” he said.

Capt. Mike Graef of the Huntress agrees there are still amberjack around.

“It’s been a great season for amberjack,” Graef said, as his mate Groovy filled the top rack Thursday afternoon with amberjack.

“You have to burn a little fuel … go a little further, but you can catch them,” Graef said.

“I didn’t understand when they (the Gulf Council) said we’re in trouble,” he said.

“I’m surprised it’s lasted as long as it did,” Graef said of the 58 days.

“We needed more, but I’m just glad for the days we got,” said Capt. Rusty Gilbert of the Mary Lou.

Capt. Ken Bolden of the Just-B-Cause said he was in agreement.

“I’m glad for what we got, but I hope they’ll increase it next year. And it would be OK if they increase the size,” Bolden said.