Time is wasting. Red snapper are hammering baits in the Gulf of Mexico and anglers have just a few more weeks to catch their share before the season shuts down again 'til next summer.
Red snapper, an offshore species found throughout Florida waters, is considered a fisheries success story. During the 1980s and most of the '90s, these highly prized sportfish had all but disappeared from the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Fishery managers blamed overfishing by commercial and recreational anglers. Biologists conducted study after study and eventually suspected the real culprit was not fishermen's hooks, but shrimpers' nets.
Year after year, millions of juvenile red snapper were caught in commercial shrimp trawls and then discarded as bycatch. But when federal officials began requiring commercial shrimp boats to begin using bycatch reduction devices to reduce the number of fish killed, red snapper stocks rebounded.
Today, anglers can keep these tasty fish from June 1 through July 19. Hopefully, if the trend continues, fishery managers may keep the season opened even longer in 2012. But for the time being, head to Pensacola, Panama City, Destin, St. Petersburg or Sarasota and catch your share. You will be glad you did.
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