AUSTIN- Based on current and projected landings estimates, the private recreational angler red snapper season in federal waters off the Texas coast will close at 12:01 a.m., Aug. 2, earlier than the initially projected 97-day season.
This is the second year of an agreement between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), where TPWD can establish the opening and closing of the red snapper fishery in federal waters off the Texas coast for private recreational anglers fishing from their own vessels.
As part of this agreement, also known as an Exempted Fishing Permit, Texas must close the fishery when the state’s allotted poundage is reached. Red snapper catch estimates through July 12 from federal waters indicates Texas private recreational anglers have landed 69 percent of the allocation.
“Closing the red snapper fishery earlier than expected is a sign that anglers were able to get out in the gulf early in the season to catch red snapper,” said Robin Riechers, TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Director. “An early season closure demonstrates our ability to meet management goals while still giving longer seasons than if we were still in the one size fits all approach across the gulf.”
In projecting the number of days for the 2019 private recreational red snapper season in federal waters several assumptions had to be made by TPWD, namely that fishing behavior by private recreational anglers would be similar to that in previous years, with the number of participants in the fishery remaining relatively constant and the average weight of fish landed similar to 2018.
As it has turned out, weather patterns in the western Gulf of Mexico during the early part of the federal season have been generally favorable, resulting in more angler trips earlier this year compared to past years. According to Mark Fisher, science director for coastal fisheries at TPWD, several factors have contributed to the need for an early closure. The average weight of red snapper landed daily and the number of angler trips in federal waters have been twice the amount seen in 2018, and the average fish size has also been larger.
“While we had hoped to reach the projected 97-day red snapper season, the ability to manage and close the fishery when the allotted poundage is reached demonstrates that state management of the fishery is working as expected,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “The success story here is that anglers have had greater opportunity to get out to this point and have taken full advantage of the weather and the fact that there are plenty of fish to catch.”
The private recreational angler red snapper season in Texas state waters out to nine nautical miles is expected to remain open year-round based on state water landing projections.
The federally permitted for-hire sector, which allow recreational anglers to fish from charter boats or head boats, will remain in its current management structure set by the federal government. The federally permitted for-hire sector’s red snapper season is projected to close Aug. 2.