Red snapper returned

In this give-and-take world, the federal government has mostly taken from recreational anglers. Tighter slots, shortened seasons, lower limits -- recent decades have seen few bright spots in federal fisheries management. However, Oct. 1 brings a rare gift -- an extended recreational red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico.

At its August meeting, The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to recommend opening recreational red snapper for a supplemental season in Gulf federal waters during weekends only (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) from Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 through Sunday Nov. 21, 2010. This supplemental Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season was approved by NOAA Fisheries Service.

The background: Earlier this year, when the Gulf Council projected that the recreational red snapper quota would be filled sooner in 2010 than it had been in 2009, the season was set for only 53 days (June 1-July 23). No one could have predicted that the federal fishing closures caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill would significantly reduce fishing effort in the Northern Gulf where the greatest number of red snapper reside. According to federal calculations, recreational anglers caught only 1.1 million of their allotted 3.4 million pounds.

Don't look for anyone to thank BP for the mess that so greatly impacted the Gulf, but the feds deserve credit for making the right call. A lot of charter boats, marinas, tackle shops and related retailers saw dramatic declines in business during the BP disaster. There's no replacing what was lost, but hopefully the supplemental red snapper season will generate some much needed revenue for those who depend on the Gulf's recreational fishing industry.

Bag a snapper

As one of the snapper clan's most aggressive members, red snapper are quick to respond when they see something you like. Typically hovering above a reef or rocky structure, red snapper often intercept baits intended for mangrove snapper and grouper. However, if you're trying to catch these crimson brutes, not many fish will beat them to the punch.

When red snapper top your target list, start with dead baits. The scent of cut Spanish sardines, Boston mackerel or menhaden will gather the fish and get them ready for any livies you carry or catch offshore. Pinfish, small blue runners, cigar minnows -- the ruby-scaled bullies will greedily gobble any of these. And if you net some pilchards (aka "whitebait") inshore, it's lights-out when the snaps see them.

Now, if artificials are your game, red snapper will lay the smack down on a well-placed jig. Bullethead bucktails tipped with a dead sardine or a bonita strip draw a strong response, but if you really want to see a red snapper's true colors, fire down a slender, shiny Tsunami Knife Jig or Shimano Butterfly Jig and hang on. Specially-made jigging rods with ultra-limber tips and plenty of backbone provide the flexibility to dance the jig, while packing the power necessary to whip a sow snapper.

The daily limit of red snapper is two per person (included in the daily aggregate of 10 snapper) and the minimum size in the Gulf of Mexico is 16 inches. Captain and crew on for-hire vessels are not allowed to keep snapper in the Gulf.

Florida considers changes to redfish regs

Two public workshops remain for review of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's recent regional analysis of the red drum stock assessment. The FWC is considering rule changes including the creation of regional management areas for red drum and raising the daily bag limit to two reds per person in the state's two northern regions. Possible rule changes will also be discussed for the southeast region of the state.

Specific dates for the remaining meetings have yet to be announced but one will be held in November at the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg and the other in December at the Crystal River City Hall Council Chambers. When dates are set, they will be posted at http://www.myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/MarineFisheries_Workshops.htm.

Workshops are open to the public. Written public comments are also accepted via e-mail at marine@myfwc.com.

Coastal Conservation Association of Florida has stated its opposition to any change in red drum regulations of a one fish daily bag limit, 18- to 27-inch slot, year-round open season and no commercial take.