— NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Gulf of Mexico anglers will have a longer red snapper season than they thought. A week before opening, regulators announced that the recreational season in federal waters for the popular game fish will be 17 to 34 days instead of nine to 28.
Updated recreational landings data and new information from Louisiana and Texas prompted the change, according to a release from NOAA Fisheries, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Charter boat Capt. Steve Tomeny and Randy Pausina, Louisiana's top fisheries official, were happy Thursday to hear that the federal season off Louisiana will be increased from nine days to 24.
Tomeny said some of his customers had talked about canceling trips scheduled after June 9 because they couldn't catch red snapper. "I'll have a few more trips I'll be able to run this year," he said.
NOAA Fisheries also raised the total allowed red snapper catch from 8 million pounds to nearly 8.5 million pounds, with 51 percent for commercial boats and the rest for anglers.
The recreational season opens June 1 in federal waters, which begin nine nautical miles off of Florida and Texas and three nautical miles off of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
"We don't really have a lot of red snapper within three miles," Tomeny said.
Anglers in Mississippi and Alabama, which set their state seasons and limits to match federal regulations, will have 34 days rather than 28 to catch red snapper in federal waters.
The other states all scheduled longer seasons, and Texas and Louisiana both let anglers go beyond the federal limit of two red snapper a day. The varying federal seasons are designed to give anglers across the Gulf an equal chance at red snapper, federal regulators have said.
Anglers off Texas, where they can catch up to four red snapper a day year-round in state waters, will have 17 days in federal waters rather than 12.