By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Three species – red snapper, Eastern wild turkeys and white-tailed deer – dominated the discussion at the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) Meeting last weekend in Tuscaloosa.
With the red snapper recreational season opening on June 1, Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), thanked Marine Resources and other proponents of a longer red snapper season for Alabama’s potential 47 days of fishing for the state’s most popular reef fish.
“The Gulf states were granted exempted fishing permits to be able to manage the red snapper fishery, recreationally, off our coast,” Blankenship said. “That was done primarily because of good work by Sen. (Richard) Shelby that included language in legislation that allowed the permits. The exempted fishing permits were worked on by Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon and Kevin Anson, our chief biologist at Marine Resources. Our state (private recreational) season will be Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting June 1 and that runs through Labor Day. It will also include the whole week of the Fourth of July. That ends up being 47 days. It could be longer if we have bad weather and the catch is reduced, or it could be shortened by a few days if our catch is above what we are projecting. I do want to commend Scott and Marine Resources for getting that done in a short period of time to be approved by NOAA Fisheries for this year. We will also manage that fishery next year.”
Alabama’s charter fleet remains under federal jurisdiction. The charter season is set for June 1 through July 21.
Bannon explained after the meeting that one of the reasons the exempted fishing permits were approved is the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting System, more commonly known as Snapper Check. The system requires anglers who land red snapper in Alabama to report their catches before the fish are removed from the vessels. Anglers have three ways to report catches: the Outdoor AL app for smartphones, online at outdooralabama.com or by paper reporting forms at select public boat ramps.
The Outdoor AL app has been totally revamped for the 2018 season. The Pocket Ranger app previously used is no longer viable. The new Outdoor AL app must be downloaded onto your smartphone.
“The new Snapper Check will have an offline function, which had been requested by the fishing community so they can submit their report even when they don’t have a cell signal,” Bannon said. “When they do get a cell signal, the system will automatically upload their snapper report. This eliminates any excuse not to report. You can report anywhere. You can report as soon as you catch your fish offshore, or you can report before you remove the snapper from your boat upon landing. We are excited about that portion of it.”
Bannon said anglers still are required to report their snapper catches even if they interacted with Marine Resources personnel.
“Being surveyed by the Marine Resources biological staff at the boat ramp is not considered reporting your fish,” he said. “Additionally, if anglers have been interviewed by enforcement, either stopped while underway or checked at the boat ramp, that is not considered reporting either. You still must report your catch.
“The new Outdoor AL app will also have a tab to review your snapper reports for the year.”
Snapper Check will require the number of red snapper caught and retained. Other questions include where the fish were landed, Mobile or Baldwin County, whether the boat landed at a private or public access point, whether the boat is a charter or private recreational vessel, how many anglers were on the boat and how many dead discards were observed during the fishing day. Dead discards are red snapper that are caught and released and do not survive.
“Dead discards are in the management plan,” Bannon said. “The feds account for that, and Marine Resources accounts for that to give us the data point for fish mortality.”
New this year is the ability for anglers to report their catches of gray triggerfish and greater amberjack.
“Triggerfish and amberjack are two hot topics,” Bannon said. “They are highly desirable species. There are pending changes in the management of amberjack, and we made some changes to triggerfish. We would like to gather more real data on what fish are being landed in Alabama.”
The gray triggerfish limit was reduced to one fish per person with a minimum size of 15 inches fork length. The amberjack limit is one per person with a minimum size of 34 inches fork length.
Amberjack and triggerfish seasons close on June 1 and are scheduled to reopen on August 1.