Back in the not-so-long-ago days when the recreational red snapper season was dwindling to a very few days, the two-per-angler daily limit was more prized than it is today.
This year’s two-snapper per fishermen limit comes with an abundance of days — Friday-through-Sunday openings until Louisiana’s 800,000-pound-plus quota is reached — and follows 2018 when our state reached 60 days of allowed red snapper take.
What savvy anglers did back in those reduced seasons was target other species. Off our state’s coast, it didn’t take those folks long to learn how to catch mangrove snapper — they’re labeled gray snapper in federal guidelines — to add to the two red snapper per angler allowance.
Mangrove had a 10-per-day limit, only allowed if a fishermen didn’t catch any of the other snapper species lumped in with mangroves for a daily creel.
Those other species included mutton, yellowtail, the giant cuberas, queen and blackfin.
It’s not likely anyone around here will find mutton and yellowtail snappers in the western Gulf of Mexico, but, lately, anything’s possible.
It’s the others, the cuberas (Advocate Outdoors carried a photo of two massive cuberas caught in May), queens and blackfins that occasionally show up in catches.
A handful of years ago, an excited rodeo fishermen hauled in six blackfin snapper to the weigh station, and was mighty proud of his catch of 8-10 pounders.
When the weigh-master asked him if he knew what the fish were, he said, “red snapper.”
The next question was how many did they catch that day, and the angler said they returned many more to the water while trying to catch something other than snappers.
Well, the telltale black spots around the pectoral fins clearly identified these fish as blackfins, and you can imagine his disappointed look when he was told he could have kept 24 more for his daily creel limit, but only if he didn’t have any of the other snappers in that group.
It’s relatively easy to know a mangrove: its deep mahogany color; cuberas have elongated teeth and are darker than red snapper; and, queens have an elongated tail and are among the most strikingly beautiful fish living in the Gulf.
There are two additional groups of snappers with extended daily limits.
The first combine vermilion and lane snappers, and there’s a 20-per-day limit on this combo.
Around here vermilions are called “beeliners,” because of small, but visible dark lines running the length of the fish.
Lane snappers are beautiful, too, with alternating yellow and red vertical bars from dorsal fin to a white belly, and a black spot on its back just under the end of the dorsal fin.
The second combines wenchman and silk snappers. Unlike the others, these have no size limits, and a combined 10-per-day limit.
Check it out
What this means to recreational fishermen is they must know what they’re catching before the fish hits the ice chest — and they must know size restrictions on each of the snappers.
A quick check is available on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s website: gulfcouncil.org.
Once there, go to “fishing regulations,” then click on “federal fishing regulations,” then click on the box “2019 Recreational Regulations.”
A list of the snapper species, size and daily creel limits, and, most importantly, an image of each of these fish is contained in the first few pages of the regulations.
While you’re at it, check out the other rules and regs for other species, including other reef fish and sharks.
Through the first three weekends of the recreational red snapper season, LA Creel’s estimates reached 200,890 pounds, or nearly 25 percent of the quota for this year.
The Fourth of July weekend, July 4-7, is the only four-day open season in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the red snapper season, again, is Fridays through Sundays.