Outdoors column: a ‘minimal’ red snapper season offered

Outdoors ColumnistJuly 25, 2013 

This red snapper, estimated to weigh 25-30 pounds, was caught and released aboard Capt. Jay Sconyers' charter boat, Aces Up, in mid-July out of Murrells Inlet.

COURTESY PHOTO — Aces Up Fishing

In mid-July, Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing was bottom fishing in 110 feet of water near the Parking Lot on a charter trip. A customer got a big bite on a cigar minnow and began working the sizable fish to the surface.

The crew was hoping for a freight train grouper, but when Sconyers was first able to see the fish as it neared the surface he could only shake his head.

Moments later, a sow red snapper weighing in the 25- to 30-pound range was brought into the boat but was released after a quick photo op.

This scene has been played over and over along the Southeast coast in the last three-plus years.

The red snapper fishery has been closed in the South Atlantic region since Jan. 4, 2010 after the species was deemed to be overfished and still undergoing overfishing by a 2008 stock assessment.

For the second straight year, NOAA Fisheries is offering a very minimal, to put it nicely, recreational fishing season for red snapper.

Based on a 2013 annual catch limit of 9,585 fish, the recreational red snapper season will last one long weekend, from 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 23 through 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26. The red snapper bag limit during the three days is one fish per person per day with no minimum size limit.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” Sconyers said of the upcoming brief season. “Anything is better than zero. That was my day-maker fish and I had to throw him back in the ocean.”

Sconyers has his own ideas of how to handle the recreational red snapper fishery in the South Atlantic.

“One per boat per trip would be great,” said Sconyers. “If they’re so endangered make a tag system for them. You gotta do something. You can’t just say no.”

The short season will create a three-day fishing bonanza in south Georgia and north Florida where red snapper are one of the main reef species targeted by charter and party boats.

Off the South Carolina coast, red snapper are less common and more of an incidental catch. But with the species having been off limits for over three years, they are increasing in numbers and size and they can be found – even targeted to some degree – by knowledgeable local anglers who know their haunts.

"I have a couple spots to target them but why bother if the weather’s not good and I don’t have the customers to go [those three days],’’ Sconyers said.

NOAA Fisheries has also set a commercial annual catch limit of 21,447 pounds of red snapper for 2013. The commercial season opens when the recreational season closes, at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26 and will close when the quota is projected to be met. The commercial daily trip limit is 75 pounds gutted weight with no minimum size limit.

Reel Kids Tournament

The 12th-annual Bobby Clarke Memorial Reel Kids, Reel Fun Fishing Tournament will be held Saturday at Georgetown Landing Marina.

Local fishermen are invited to take children out for a day of fishing with a cookout and awards ceremony to follow at the marina.

The tournament was named for the late Capt. Bobby Clarke, who passed away in 2006 after his charter boat, Super Suds II, capsized while returning to Murrells Inlet from an offshore fishing trip.

The event emphasizes the importance of boating safety and wearing life jackets to the youngsters.

For more information, contact Michael Smith of the Florence Bluewater Fishing Club, which sponsors the event, at 843-307-0425.

Murrells Inlet Reef Construction

The Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association and the Murrells Inlet Rotary Club will combine to construct a reef from used oyster shell on August 1.

The new reef will be constructed about 350 yards from the Murrells Inlet public boat landing. Volunteers interested in helping with the project are encouraged to meet at the boat landing at 9:30 a.m. The event is expected to last approximately 3 hours.

For more information, call Chris Hawley at 843-455-0371.

Contact GREGG HOLSHOUSER at 651-9028 or wholshouser@sc.rr.com.

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