Alabama red snapper season set to open with half the quota of 2022

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 5:10 PM CDT
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ORANGE BEACH Ala. (WALA) - The countdown is on for the 2023 Alabama red snapper season. The fishery opens to private anglers at 12 a.m. Friday morning, May 26, 2023. It will be open each Friday through Monday until the quota is met. This year, the quota is half of what it was in 2022.

It’s the weekend anglers along the Alabama coast have been waiting for. Red snapper is a highly sought-after reef fish that has also become highly regulated in recent years. Shorter seasons and smaller catch limits have been a trend. Even though gulf states now set their own season dates, the feds regulate the stock and set the quota allowed each year.

Red snapper is one of the most regulated fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico
Red snapper is one of the most regulated fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico(Hal Scheurich)

“On the private angler sector, we divide that between the five gulf states and so our share this year will be about five hundred and fifty-two thousand pounds is what we’re going to start the season with, with the opportunity for that to move up,” said Director of Alabama Marine Resources, Scott Bannon.

That’s half of what Alabama’s allocation was in 2022. It’s a drastic reduction but Bannon said Alabama anglers didn’t even reach this year’s quota weight last year. I asked him why the reduction if we came nowhere close to reaching last year’s limit. The answer isn’t simple. It boils down to the fed’s assessment of the stock and the state’s, not lining up.

“And so, there is a difference, and they call it trying to match currency to bring the two numbers together, so we fought it for a while. We had delayed implementation until January of 2023, and we had anticipated a new stock assessment to be done and we would make some adjustments to the quota based on the stock assessment, but the stock assessment is a little bit behind,” Bannon explained.

Bannon is hopeful that the Gulf Fisheries Council will make a couple adjustments through the season to increase the quota to about 600,000 pounds.

While the politics that is the red snapper fishery gets hashed out, anglers are just ready for the season to get here. J & M Tackle in Orange Beach has been a busy place.

“You see an increase in combos for bottom fishing. You see circle hooks going out the door, descending devices or deflaters, which one or the other is required, so when we see those picking up, we know it’s time and it’s time,” said J & M’s Jeff Hanna.

Anglers are required to check their red snapper catch before getting to the dock using the state’s free Snapper Check app. This year, Alabama Marine Fisheries biologists will be checking catches at the dock using e-tablets to streamline interviews and improve accuracy.