Fernandina Beach snapper grounds

  • William Boyle, Julie, Breck and William Benton with a nice catch of red snapper, left. Capt. Bryce Schmidt cleans a nice catch of red snapper, right. TERRY LACOSS/SPECIAL
    William Boyle, Julie, Breck and William Benton with a nice catch of red snapper, left. Capt. Bryce Schmidt cleans a nice catch of red snapper, right. TERRY LACOSS/SPECIAL

Southeast Atlantic fishermen were able to harvest red snapper over the weekend, with one more day available — Friday.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries determines the season length for red snapper, which is based on catch rates coming from recreational and charter vessel anglers participating in all of the South Atlantic states along with data from the Marine Recreational Information Program and the southeast region survey.

NOAA fisheries also used catch rate estimates from state surveys conducted by South Carolina, Georgia and Florida MRIP data were used for North Carolina because the its red snapper survey did not provide any catch rate and landings estimates.

Last year, the recreational season was open for five days.

In 2019, recreational landings exceeded the recreational annual catch limit. Since NOAA fisheries estimates the season length based on catch rates from the previous year, this year is shorter by one day to reduce the likelihood that the recreational landings would exceed the recreational annual catch limit in 2020.

NOAA fisheries also promotes the use of single-hook rigs since the recreational bag limit for red snapper during the limited fishing seasons is one per person per day. This will potentially reduce the number of red snapper caught on one drop.

Use a dehooking device to remove the hook. Keep fish in the water if you plan to release them or return them to the water as quickly as possible. Use descending devices when releasing fish with signs of barotrauma.

Certainly the regulations and seasons NOAA fisheries have set for red snapper have protected the stocks. However, the majority of saltwater fishermen are wondering why the seasons are so short because the stocks of Southeast Atlantic red snapper seem to be in great shape.

I spent Saturday afternoon taking photos of red snapper catches as both recreational and charter fishing boats returned to the Fernandina Harbor Marina. I don’t believe in all of my 40 seasons fishing from this popular port have I witnessed such happier fishermen and for good reason.

Fishermen were able to catch their one red snapper limit in little time, fighting a bottom fish that typically puts a deep bend in your saltwater fishing rod. It is one of the best eating fish in the ocean.

“I took my fishing party offshore, anchored over a good bottom and began cutting up menhaden I had cast netted earlier,” Capt. Bryce Schmidt said. “My fishing party was instantly hooked up with red snapper after dropping their barbed menhaden down to the bottom.

“After a few minutes of fishing, red snapper followed the chum slick and were actually swimming around the boat where we continued catching red snapper minus the weight.

“I believe the red snapper season is too short. There are plenty of red snapper, and they are eating all the smaller fish that now don’t have a chance to grow up.”

After witnessing all of the happy charters and recreational fishermen, I loaded up my Caymas fishing boat, and Glenda Crosby and I were red snapper fishing the following day. I followed my son, Terry David, out to one of his secret red snapper spots, and both boats were soon hooking up to red snapper from 5-20 pounds. 

Crosby lost two large red snapper before catching her limit, a nice 22-pound red snapper. All we did catch were red snapper, and it was evident the natural reef below was overpopulated with red snapper.

To voice your opinion on the current regulations and seasons for red snapper, visit www.fisheries.noaa.gov.

The 40th annual Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament will be held next week, with a fishing on Thursday and Friday. A redfish tournament will be held on Saturday, followed by the awards ceremony, which will begin at 4 p.m. For information, visit www.kingfishtournament.com.

The 38th annual Fernandina Beach Fishing Rodeo, presented by the Nassau Sport Fishing Association, will be held Aug. 1 at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. It is sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association as part of its 2020 tournament trail national championship series.

There is a kingfish division and an inshore/offshore division for eith different species. Every entrant can fish one or both divisions. For information, visit www.nsfafish.net.