Captains hope for more days next year to land amberjack

Tina Harbuck
A proud angler shows off an amberjack he caught while fishing aboard the Huntress with Capt. Mike Graef in 2016. [TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG]

With a shorter season than usual this year to harvest amberjack, local captains are hoping for more days next year.

Capt. Scott Robson and Capt. Jim Green, along with others, will attend the Gulf Council meeting in San Antonio, Texas, next week to express their concerns about amberjack along with possible ideas.

In recent years, charter boats have been able to keep amberjack until June 1 with another season opening in August.

This year, the amberjack season was cut short on March 24 with no hopes of it reopening until 2018. During the season, boats were allowed to keep one amberjack per angler and they had to measure 34 inches to keep.

The reason for the closure was fishery management data showed that recreational anglers had exceeded their catch limit for 2016, which required the 2017 annual catch limit to be reduced to make up for the overage in 2016.

The council is proposing an August opening in 2018 with one fish per person and no boat limit.

However, our local captains have a few ideas of their own to cut back and get more days of fishing.

Green, who is vice chairman of the Destin Charter Boat Association as well as captain of the American Spirit party boat, said they are shooting for a split season on amberjack with one fish per two people and a boat limit of six maximum.

Robson agrees with the  bag limits.

Robson explained that the one per every two anglers would give a 45 percent reduction and the six maximum per boat would work out to be a 17 percent reduction.

With the reductions he’s hoping for more days next year with a split season.

The split would be a March through May season and then a fall season from August through October.

“Whatever it takes to get us a season,” Robson said.

"I think as long as a portion of the recreational fishery is unknown, meaning not knowing how many are fishing, what they are catching, and how often they are really going, it's going to take creative seasons, bag limits, and vessel limits to generate as much access as we can get," Green said.

Framework action for the Great Amberjack ACL and management measures will be discussed on Tuesday at the Gulf Council meeting.