It's been a long time coming, but South Carolina anglers and consumers officially are allowed to catch and eat South Carolina red snapper.
The limited 2017 recreational red snapper fishing season will be open for two consecutive three-day weekends – Nov. 3-5 and Nov. 10-12 – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday.
The recreational bag limit is one fish per person per day, and there is no minimum size limit.
The commercial fishery will open Nov. 2 with a 75-pound trip limit and no minimum size limit.
During the open red snapper season, state marine resource agency personnel will be conducting surveys at various locations and collecting samples from fishermen.
In late September, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted 12-1 to open a limited 2017 red snapper fishing season from North Carolina to east Florida and the Florida Keys.
After about a month of waiting, NOAA Fisheries approved the council's request and decided on the exact dates.
“Approving the Council’s request for an interim catch limit for 2017 will allow fishermen limited access to the resource as the stock continues to rebuild, provide an economic boost to fishing communities impacted by Hurricane Irma, and present an opportunity for data to be collected from both recreational and commercial fishermen,” Council Chair Charlie Phillips said in a news release.
Harvesting of red snapper was closed from 2010 to 2017 – except for short seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – after data showed that the fish population in the South Atlantic was in danger.
In June, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council was presented with new data from the long-term Southeast Reef Fish Survey, which indicated that the population has has rebounded since 2014.
The Council urges fishermen to use best fishing practices to minimize the number of released red snapper and help improve the likelihood that released fish will survive.
“The red snapper fishery has remained closed since 2014 because mortality estimates of the number of released fish exceeded the annual catch limit,” Captain Mark Brown, council vice-chair, said in a news release. “It is imperative that we use best practices. The key to having future access to red snapper lies in reducing the mortality of fish that are released.”
For more information about the season, visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council website at safmc.net.