Coastal Outdoors: Officials open limited red snapper season

Finally, a red snapper season is being allowed in South Atlantic federal waters.

 

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has announced two three-day weekend openings, the first beginning tomorrow and the other the following Friday through Sunday – dates Nov. 3 -5 and Nov. 10-12.

The recreational limit is one fish (whole weight) per day, per angler with no minimum size limit.

The commercial harvest also opens, and actually got underway today with a 75-pound, gutted weight, limit per trip, the commercial season ends when the annual catch limit of 42,510 pounds is reached. The recreational sector is allocated 71.23 percent of the total catch limit.

A lot of anglers are expected to be targeting red snapper since the season has been closed since 2014, particularly if weather conditions are favorable.

Some of reports we have been receiving this year show a steadily increasing number of red snapper being caught and released off the Georgia-South Carolina coast in federal waters, particularly in such areas as the Snapper Banks and similar live bottom waters.

This type of catch action shows the fishery, if it ever was truly losing ground through over-fishing, is definitely rebounding and on the road to a healthy recovery.

With no intent of putting a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm, the 10-day weather forecast as of this past Monday is not very encouraging. Northeast winds over both weekends are predicted, which could mean some rough seas offshore and tough fishing conditions.

One conservation group – the Pew Charitable Trusts – continues to be opposed to the opening. In an email Monday, the group maintained its position, saying that overfishing was the reason for the moratorium, and that the limited opening now authorized puts the species at risk.

New regulations proposed

And while on federal waters issues, NOAA fisheries is proposing changes to the mutton snapper regulations in South Atlantic waters, among them reducing the recreational bag limit within the 10-fish aggregate snapper bag limit to five mutton snapper per person per day, and also increasing the minimum size limit from 16 to 18 inches, total length.

The recreational sector also would be revised to increase the size limit from 16 to 18 inches along with establishing a commercial trip limit during January through April and July through December at 500 pounds, whole weight and establishing a trip limit during May through June of five mutton snapper per person per day, or five per person per trip, whichever is more restrictive.

Public comments are being accepted through Nov. 17.

Local catch action

As hoped, the current fishing reports indicate some excellent near-shore and inshore fishing, with red drum still dominating the catch action and spotted sea trout running a close second. Flounder are still in the reports and this week we received one that included a big striper taken, along with a big red.

Limit catches of both reds and trout have been reported, along with some full-grown reds being released and still a significant number of undersized trout being released.

Anglers, young and those not quite so young, have been testing the waters and with some excellent success.

Capt. Judy Helmey (912-897-4921), in her weekly web report at www.missjudycharters.com, had several photos of her team of guides putting clients on impressive catches of bull and keeper reds, harvestable trout, whiting and more.

Also check out her Halloween account of a few years back – a funny, humorous story.

The report of a striper and redfish being caught and released came from long-time friends Dr. Doug and Patti Giorgio, who forwarded a couple of photos of grandson Joseph Felder, fishing with Louis VanBruening and his son Nolan, showing both. No report on what else was landed that day, but the trio apparently had quite an exciting day on the water.

Another report came from Tony Montford, who told of his daughter Amanda Linton and her husband Kenny, getting into the reds in the Wassaw Sound area, having an excellent day catching and releasing.

He also forwarded from the Ossabaw Sound waters where he and Tim Goodwin got into the trout, forwarding a photo of several they harvested on Friday.

From Coffee Bluff

Marvin Metzger, who operates Coffee Bluff Marina, forwarded a report and several photos of area action, saying the catch numbers through Saturday were excellent, but dropped off significantly Sunday due to windy conditions.

Metzger noted a lot of anglers getting into schools of reds measuring 14 to 16 inches in length.

“Trout bite was also good, and I saw a lot of nice fish returned to the marina,” he said, closing by saying he was optimistic this week would start out well, but probably would begin to drop off by the end of the week as tides started springing.

Coffee Bluff Marina recently expanded the size of its live bait holding bays and now has all three shrimp, mud minnows and fiddler crabs, Metzger reported.

The Outlook

As noted earlier, tides now are beginning to spring relative to the full moon (full moon is Saturday) and according to the tide book will be among the highest of the year, reaching 9.1 feet Saturday and 9.0 feet Sunday.

Add the fact that wind is predicted to be out of the northeast, and tides will probably climb even more, causing widespread flooding of coastal marshes and possibly some low land areas.

Expect swift currents and widespread muddying into next week, with the best near shore and inshore fishing action to be during the slack high flood and ebb periods – the high flood periods most likely to produce the most clear water periods.

By next weekend tides will be back in the seven-foot range and will remain in that range until Nov. 16 when they again will move into the eight-foot range relative to the new moon phase. However, high tides are only predicted to reach 8.0 feet Nov. 17 and 18, before dropping back into the seven and six-foot range for the remainder of November.

But with favorable weather conditions, the last 10 days of November should find coastal waters generally clear through much of the tidal cycles and some excellent late fall action, both offshore and inshore.

John Burke can be reached at 912-655-8505, or by email at john.burke@savannahnow.com.

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