Red snapper season open until July 14

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 By Capt. Brylee

Special to the Pioneer

June 1 marked the opening day for 2013 Florida Gulf red snapper season, which will last until July 14th and yet again allows a shorter season than the previous year. 

While state waters are open in the gulf for 44 days, federal waters will have an even shorter window with the season only lasting until June 21, a mere 21 days.

Despite reports showing the red snapper stock is increasing, the NOAA and National Marine Fisheries Service maintain that the Magnuson-Stevens Act is forcing them to shorten the red snapper season each year.

Florida size and bag limits for red snapper harvest are a minimum of 16 inches total length and two fish per harvester.

Local Levy County angler Mark Long reported his group reaching their limit three days in a row the first week of red snapper season. While most anglers harvest fish with hook and line, Mark takes a different approach by spear fishing.

A seasoned and certified diver for both open water and cave diving, Long prefers spear fishing not only for the experience of the dive but says you are able to be more selective as to the fish you harvest as well as it being less damaging to the fish population. 

“It’s a great way to combine hunting with fishing,” Long said.

Diving around 19 to 20 miles off the coast of Mexico Beach, Long dived in water depths of approximately 100 feet. The fish were everywhere, Long said. The Gulf waters in and around Mexico Beach offer very few natural reefs and rock structures to host offshore fish but there have been many artificial reefs put in place. 

The largest snapper Long and his party harvested was 35 inches and estimated at about 25 pounds, but red snapper of course were not the only fish down there. Mark said he watched everything from sharks to big grouper and barracudas swimming and feeding around these artificial reefs.

You can find more information on where these reefs are located and what they are constructed of by looking on-line at the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association Inc. website at .    

Please obey all federal, state and local laws and remember to catch and release. Good luck catching.