Woods, waters and wildlife: Snapper season expanded

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It looks like Texas red snapper fishermen will see a season in federal waters that is 40 days longer than last year’s season.

That’s just in federal waters; in state waters – those out to nine nautical miles – the season is expected to remain open all year. There’s also a difference in federal and state bag or creel limits, and different minimum lengths of snappers you can keep.

In federal waters – those nine nautical miles from shore and over – the limit is two snappers per day, and they must be at least 16inches in length. In state waters – the first nine nautical miles from shore – the bag limit is four snappers per day, and the minimum length is 15 inches.

The season in federal waters opens June 1 and is “projected” to run for 82 days. That all depends upon how the fishing is. The season could close earlier if the federal poundage quota for the Texas Gulf is reached, and that is controlled by the weather. With good weather all summer, and a lot of people fishing and catching a mess of fish, the quota could be reached earlier, halting the season. Storms in the Gulf affecting the fishing, however, might retard the harvest and allow the season to run all 82 days.

Now, all the above pertains to private recreational anglers, as opposed to for-hire charter boats, or head boats, that operate under a lower quota and a shorter season.

All this is regulated under a Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP), which is an agreement between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Without bogging readers down in that alphabet soup of a sentence, TPWD applied for the permit, and was granted the permit to manage the red snapper fishing in federal waters but was denied the notion of regulating private recreational fishermen and those on boats for-hire in one category of rules.

TPWD disagreed with classing headboat fishermen differently from private-boat anglers, and the TPW Commission chairman took a firm stand against that concept. That’s the way it stands at present, however.

Headboat fishing is popular in Texas, and the only way some citizens can go out into the sea in ships. Unless you have a sea-worthy boat and skills as a skipper, or have a generous friend who does, head-boats are about your only alternative.

In Port Aransas, Fisherman’s Wharf (361-749-5448) operates the popular Scat Cat in the Gulf. For $110 an angler, they provide the boat trip, tackle, bait, and deck hand assistance. They also have a snack area where my wife spent some time recovering from a wave of sea-sickness from staring at her line while catching fish with the boat rolling with the waves beside an oil rig. Her rented breakfast helped chum the water, but she recovered and came back out on deck later and resumed fishing.

Woody’s in Pt. A. (361-749-5252) offers private trips for up to six anglers, starting at $1,300.

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