Louisiana Authorities Announce Emergency Declaration to Reopen Red Snapper Season

by Amy Myers
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Because the state did not fulfill its season quota, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries is issuing a reopening for red snapper fishing. From 12:01 a.m. Friday, October 7 through 11:59 p.m. Friday, October 14, anglers can take their rods out to the Gulf for round two.

Recently, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Jack Montoucet signed an emergency declaration to reopen snapper season as there are still 39,216 pounds of the 809,315-pound quota left to harvest. During the eight-day additional season, Louisiana anglers can hook four snappers per day (one more than is typical).

Intially, the state’s red snapper season closed on September 19. In the following days, LDWF officials evaluated this year’s numbers and found a sizeable deficit remaining.

The reopening is an exciting development for Cajun anglers, albeit a surprising one, as the state has often butted heads with the federal NOAA Fisheries over jurisdiction of the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper harvest.

Coastal Conservation Association Conservation Director Ted Venken has lamented on the national organization’s preference to their own supporting data. Recently, NOAA has even gone so far as to discredit the Gulf states’ data showing that anglers have been fulfilling meticulous catch reporting.

“Rather than continue to insist it is always the smartest entity in the room, NOAA Fisheries should work on being a better partner to the Gulf states as well as the angling public, and commit to getting to the bottom of wild data discrepancies [of red snapper catches] before cramming down damaging, punitive measure[s],” Venken said, per Sport Fishing.

This mandatory catch reporting is the reason for the season reopening. Thanks to the data that red snapper anglers have provided, the state felt it was appropriate to allow for an extra opportunity on the Gulf.

Red Snapper Populations on the Rebound in the Gulf of Mexico

According to the LDWF, at one point, snapper numbers in the Gulf were critically low.

“This was due to a number of reasons,” the department stated, “including increased catch rates, ­increased recreational fishing effort, extended state fishing seasons, larger fish, and insufficient monitoring of recreational landings.

However, in recent years, the population has made a promising recovery. In fact, in 2018, NOAA published an updated asssessment that demonstrated that “overfishing is not occurring.” Still, the population requiries diligent maintenance and a healthy mix of fish of varying ages. Red snappers can live up to 60 years old. Today, there are still “too few older (greater than 20 years) individuals.”

The need for older females, in particular, is crucial because they carry more, higher quality eggs.

“Restrictions on harvest of red snapper are designed not only to increase red snapper abundance but also to allow red snapper to reach older, potentially more productive ages so the population can fully rebuild,” the LDWF explained.