There has been great debate over a Snapper Fishing Season in South Atlantic Waters. Recent studies show red snapper abundance has increased in the South Atlantic since 2014, and was highest in 2017. NOAA Fisheries has determined that the proposed limited harvest beginning in 2018 is not expected to result in over fishing and would not prevent the continued rebuilding of the red snapper population. Amendment 43 specifies that the commercial sector would open the 2nd Monday in July and the recreational sector would open the 2nd Friday in July.If the fishing seasons do not open exactly on these dates, they would open as close to these dates as possible. To read the NOAA Bulletin on Red Snapper, visit http://safmc.net/download/fb18-032_sa_sg_am43_pr.pdf
We asked a couple of our local Offshore Charter Captains for their opinions.
Everyone knows Red Snapper makes a great meal. The white meat is tasty no matter if its grilled or fried. For this reason it has been heavily fished commercially and recreationally to the point where N.M.F.S. put a moratorium on all red snapper fishing in south atlantic waters several years ago. This closure was relaxed for two weekends last fall to test sample the fishery in preparation for a possible re-opening. My crew and I participated in this process by fishing every possible day of last falls limited season and donating all carcasses of red snapper to the Georgia D.N.R. for research purposes.Now for the exciting part of the story! We found out what everyone already knew abour red snapper off the south Georgia coast. They are great fighters, abundant on nearshore reefs and they bite readily on fresh, frozen or live bait. Although weather only allowed us to fish 3 of the 6 days allotted, we were able to catch our 2 fish per man limit in short order on every trip. There was no fancy gear or technique required, just a stout conventional reel on a medium-heavy rod with 30Lb. mono. Terminal tackle is an egg sinker with about 3 feet of heavy leader and a 3/0 circle hook. We fished several of the nearshore reefs and found red snapper on all of them. The key is to use your sonar to locate the fish and anchor so you can get bait to the fish. This can be tricky but keep trying until you get it right. Don’t waste time if you are not getting bites, re-set your anchor and try again. We use frozen cigar minnows for bait and also use live bait we get while fishing. The reefs are covered with bait in summer and fall so use a sabiki rig to keep livies in the well. Most days the frozen bait works great but the live baits seem to catch the largest fish. When you do hook up you have to get the fish up off the reef quickly. These fish bulldog downward as soon as they feel the hook set and they will cut you off on the bottom if you don’t get those first few cranks of line back on the reel quickly. These fish range from 2 to 25 pounds on the nearshore reefs so it does not take many for a meal. Keep only what you need and be sure to have a venting tool or deep release device aboard to get released fish back to the bottom. Always keep a pitch bait ready on a heavy spinning outfit since kings and cobia are frequent visitors to these reefs in summertime.
Captain Steve Gross
The red snapper bite is on fire. So far the council has approved the season. Now it has to be approved by the NOAA Director. You know how slow the Government is, with all the red tape they have. I will be surprised if we get the season in July like they said we would. The snapper are so thick ,they are hitting the outriggers in 60 ft. of water.
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