Red Snapper Season Opens Friday, New Snapper – Grouper Regs and NC Wants Your Carcass

For months, fishermen along the South Atlantic Coast were not expecting to have even a short red snapper season for 2020, after the slight overage in catch during 2019.  However, a change in the federal guidelines will allow the recreational red snapper season to open for four days during July.  The limited opening is based on the final rule for Amendment 43 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (83 FR 35428).  This rule specified recreational and commercial annual catch limits for red snapper beginning in 2018 and subsequent years.

The 2020 South Atlantic recreational red snapper season will be July 10, 11, and 12 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and July 17 (Friday).  The season will open at 12:01 A.M. the first day of these segments and close at 11:59 P.M. the last day of each segment.

There will also be a commercial red snapper season that will open at 12:01 a.m. on July 13, 2020, and will close at 12:01 a.m., local time, on January 1, 2021, unless the commercial annual catch limit is met or projected to be met before this date.  If the commercial quota is caught earlier and the season needs to close earlier, NOAA Fisheries will announce it in the Federal Register and publish it in a Fishery Bulletin.

The total South Atlantic red snapper catch allowed for 2020 will be 42,510 fish.  This is divided into 29,656 fish for recreational anglers and 12,854 fish or 124, 815 pounds (whole fish weight) for commercial fishermen.  The daily commercial trip limit will be 75 pounds (gutted weight).

The recreational bag limit will be one red snapper per person per day for private and charterboat/headboat vessels, with no size restrictions.  On charter and head boat trips, the captain and crew may retain their recreational bag limit.

For more information on the 2020 red snapper season, visit https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/bulletin/noaa-fisheries-announces-limited-openings-recreational-and-commercial-red-snapper-0.

Several new Snapper-Grouper regulations and gear modifications will become effective on July 15, 2020.  In late June, NOAA Fisheries announced the final rule for Regulatory Amendment 29 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.  This rule, which becomes effective at 12:01 A.M. on July 15, modifies several gear requirements for the fishery and encourages best fishing practices.

The requirements of Regulatory Amendment 29 include:

  • Requires descending devices be on board and readily available for use on commercial, for-hire, and private recreational vessels while fishing for or possessing snapper-grouper species;
  • Requires the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits north of 28º north latitude;
  • Requires all hooks be non-stainless steel when fishing for snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude;
  • Allows the use of powerheads in federal waters off South Carolina.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council intends to conduct a substantial education and outreach effort to ensure fishermen participating in the snapper-grouper fishery understand the new regulations and how to properly use descending devices.

Regulatory Amendment 29 also contains a Research and Monitoring Plan for Descending Devices.  The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council developed the best fishing practices tutorial, available at https://safmc.net/bestpracticestutorial/story_html5.html.

Regulatory Amendment 29 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/regulatory-amendment-29-gear-requirements-south-atlantic-snapper-grouper-species.

The NC Division of Marine Fisheries is requesting recreational fishermen to donate their red snapper carcasses from the 2020 mini-season for research.  Fishermen who donate a red snapper carcass will receive an outstanding catch citation from the NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament.

There will not be samplers at the docks; fishermen are asked to bring their carcasses to one of 11 collection sites across the NC Coast.  There are seven permanent carcass collections sites set up at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, Frank and Fran’s Bait and Tackle in Avon, East Side Bait and Tackle in Washington, Cape Point Marina in Harkers Island, Freeman’s Bait and Tackle in Atlantic Beach, Tex’s Tackle in Wilmington and Intracoastal Angler in Wilmington.  These will be joined by four temporary collection sites just for the red snapper season.  The locations for the temporary sites are at Bridge Tender Marina in Wrightsville Beach, the Carolina Beach Municipal Docks, Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach and the Carolina Princess Head Boat Dock in Morehead City.  A map of the carcass collection locations is available at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/freezers.

Fishermen should leave the head and tail intact on the fish carcass. Instructions on how to deposit the carcasses are posted on the freezer at each collection site and are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/prep.  Fishermen will be asked to give information related to how and when the fish was caught, plus their names and addresses to receive their citation.

DMF biologists will measure the fish, determine the sex and remove the otoliths (ear bones) to determine the age of the fish.  The information collected will be saved in state records and provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service for use in future red snapper stock assessments.

Recreational anglers also may log information about their recreational trips and catches through the MyFishCount electronic reporting mobile app.  The app is available for a free download at the Google Play and App Store or through the MyFishCount website at www.myfishcount.com.  Information on the number of harvested and released fish will improve the accuracy of National Marine Fisheries Service’s catch estimates.

For more information about North Carolina’s red snapper carcass collection program visit the NCDMF website at www.ncdmf.net and click on the Carcass Collection Program link in the left margin.

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Capt. Jerry Dilsaver has been fishing since he was a child and writing about fishing, hunting and the outdoors since 1986. He is from Southport-Oak Island, N.C. and continues to live there in semi-retirement. His writing features this area prominently, but he has fished and written about the East Coast from Virginia to Florida, the Gulf Coast, California, Alaska and several of the Great Lakes in the U.S., plus several countries in Central America and several Caribbean Islands. He has been on staff at Carolina Adventure, North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman Magazines and his byline has appeared in several other magazines and newspapers.