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Put pressure on the feds over red snapper quotas

Aside from pointing internationally recognized hand gestures at the National Marine Fisheries Service, recreational fishermen and the marine dealers that serve them need to say “enough is enough” and exert pressure on Congress to make changes in the way saltwater fisheries are managed.

This isn’t the first time federal regulations on red snapper, one of the Gulf of Mexico’s most popular sport- and table fish, have drawn fire. But this year, the National Marine Fisheries Service has that announced recreational anglers in the Gulf are being gifted a whopping three days (roll of the eyes) to catch one in federal waters. Seems the feds think that we pleasure anglers are like harp seals ready for clubbing.

The federal three-day red snapper season for recreational anglers will be the shortest in history, beginning June 1. If you’re a charterboat business, however, you’ll have a 49-day season. Now that’s a sensible policy if you want to look as expert in fish management as Elmer Fudd in hunting rabbits.

The fact is that good state and university data clearly shows a plentiful stock of red snapper in the Gulf. Indeed, anglers have trouble keeping red snapper off the hook when fishing for other species, evidence enough that the outdated management methods of the National Marine Fisheries Service continue to miss the mark. But the National Marine Fisheries Service, using the SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) method claims recreational anglers went 25 percent over last year’s quota for red snapper.

Let’s get real here. If we drill down on this issue, the biggest factor to this year’s ridiculous three-day season could very well be that the Gulf states have refused to go along with the fed’s edicts. Texas and Florida have led the way in setting their own seasons, allowing anglers to harvest red snapper in state waters for months longer than the feds. Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi followed, enacting much longer state seasons than the federal season, thus blowing raspberries at the so-called science employed by the feds.

In trying to make it appear anything but the snit-fest that it is, the National Marine Fisheries Service now claims  81 percent of the allowable red snapper harvest this year will come from state waters (within nine miles of shore). Apparently they think we anglers are more clueless than Beetle Bailey.

The truth is, I’ve been an avid Gulf angler for 10 years on Florida’s west coast. I have never (repeat never) caught a red snapper in Florida state waters. That’s because everyone knows red snapper primarily inhabit deeper Gulf waters. So it’s only when I’m offshore 40-plus miles that I can expect to hook one. In fact, the red snapper population has become so thick and healthy they’re a pain in the transom when we’re trying to get our baits down to the bottom. The red snapper now make it difficult to catch anything else on most offshore reefs.

It’s time to demand that Congress mandate a system that allows all stakeholders the best opportunity to enjoy this abundant public resource, not just a select few commercial operators as is clearly the case today in the Gulf. The continued decline in the recreational red snapper season, along with other overreaching federal fishing prohibitions, should be unacceptable to all dealers and their saltwater customers. Call for fixing the saltwater fisheries management policies now. Here’s one way:

Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill known as the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 was introduced in the House by Reps. Garret Graves, R-La., Gene Green, D-Texas, Daniel Webster, R-Fla., and Rob Wittman, R-Va. Passage would improve public access to federal waters, promote conservation of natural marine resources and stimulate economic growth.

Use this easy call to action from the Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation by clicking here.

It’s dubbed the “Modern Fish Act,” and it’s supported by the National Marine Manufacturers Association; American Sportfishing Association; Recreational Fishing Alliance; Center for Sportfishing Policy; Coastal Conservation Association; Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation; International Game Fish Association; National Marine Manufacturers Association; Recreational Fishing Alliance; The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

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