By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
Alabama anglers can fish for Red Snapper most every weekend this summer and next, a far longer season than a previous federal mandate of just three days.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced Friday that the National Marine Fisheries Service has approved Alabama’s application for an extended fishing permit and granted the state the ability to manage its own Red Snapper fishing season.
Draconian limits on recreational fishing for popular Red Snapper have long frustrated fishermen and state conservation officials, who argue the species’ abundance doesn’t warrant such strict protections.
Ivey thanked the Trump Administration, Senator Richard Shelby, and Congressman Bradley Byrne for making the exemption possible.
“Due to this exemption, I have instructed the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to set the 2018 season to 47 days,” she said. “This season will allow recreational anglers five more days to fish for red snapper compared to last year. I am proud we have been able to expand the red snapper season, which is a critical part of Alabama’s recreation and tourism industry.”
Alabama and federal waters will be open for red snapper fishing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June 1 through September 2. Fishing will also be allowed on days surrounding the July 4th and Labor Day holidays. The two fish per person bag limit and 16-inch minimum length restrictions remain in place.
Shelby, who chairs the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee in the U.S. Senate, authored language in a 2017 federal spending bill directing the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a pilot program allowing states to manage reef fishing on their own, which made Friday’s decision possible.
“This announcement is excellent news for the recreational fisherman in Alabama,” Shelby said. “After authoring the provision allowing NOAA to approve the pilot programs, our Gulf states will take the lead in managing recreational fishing of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. I am confident that Alabama’s state-led pilot program will provide our recreational fisherman with much-needed, long-overdue relief and result in more days on the water.”
Byrne, who represents the Alabama Gulf Coast and has spearheaded the issue in the U.S. House, called Friday’s decision “a huge development for our local fishermen and Alabama’s coastal communities.”
“This is how government should work: take power from Washington and return it to the people who best understand the issue. Under this proposal, our fishermen will have adequate time to enjoy a Gulf Coast tradition while our coastal communities will benefit from increased revenue. It is a win-win situation for coastal Alabama.”