Red snapper is one of the favorite offshore species anglers like seeing on their hooks, as well as their plates. And they’re easy to catch offshore of Corpus Christi.
Snapper also is one of the most highly regulated fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
For about a decade, the federal snapper season was steadily shrinking after years of overfishing. At its lowest point, in 2017, the season was down to three days.
But it seems those days are gone. This year, Texas anglers can catch these hard-fighting pink fish all summer long in federal waters.
But red snapper remain highly regulated. So, if you plan to target them, you should know the rules, which might seem complicated at first.
If you have questions, or need more information, contact me at email@example.com. I’m happy to help. If I don’t know the answer, I know where to find it.
What: In Texas, the 2019 federal Red Snapper Season for anglers fishing from private vessels opened June 1, and runs through Sept. 5 in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Where: Federal waters are beyond 9 nautical miles of Texas shores.
Federal Regulations: bag & size limits allow each angler to keep two red snapper daily that measure at least 16 inches in length.
Charter Season: Red snapper season in federal waters for anglers fishing from party and charter vessels opened June 1 and runs through Aug. 1. Federal bag and size limits apply.
State Snapper Season: Red snapper may be caught in state waters year-round, but they’re not as easy to find within 9 nautical miles of shore in the Gulf.
Texas Bag & Size Regulations: Each angler may keep four red snapper from state waters. They must measure at least 15 inches in length.
Double Dipping: Texas anglers may not return to shore with a combined daily limit from state and federal waters. Game wardens suggest anglers who want to take snapper from both waters, first bag two legal fish in federal waters, then while coming in, keep only two additional snapper from state waters. Don’t reverse this strategy. Legally, Texas anglers may bring in only four snapper, regardless of season, and may not possess more than two snapper (per licensed angler) in federal waters during the federal season.
Do I Need a License? Yes, if you are 17 or older and born after Jan. 1, 1931. Fishing for red snapper in all coastal waters requires a state saltwater fishing license. Online: www.tpwd.gov/regulations/outdoor-annual. If you plan to take the kids along, be aware that you cannot catch and keep a snapper limit for each of them unless they actually caught the fish. Who’s gonna know? Your kids will know.
Record Your Catch: Anglers are urged to log every red snapper they keep, regardless of where the fish was caught, through the smartphone app iSnapper.
Great Red Snapper Count: Researchers have tagged 4,000 fish in federal waters of the Gulf. All tagged fish will be worth at least $250 each. But some bearing two tags will be worth $500. These 4- to 5-inch, yellow, wire-thin tags will bear a five-digit number, plus the letters RS. Also, printed on the tag are the words Reward $250. Keep tag, plus a phone number to call.
WHAT’S THE EASIEST & MOST AFFORDABLE WAY TO GO?
If you’ve never fished from a party boat, aka head boat, you might be surprised to learn just how affordable these adventures can be. Generally, head boat operators offer trips that run 8, 10, and 12 hours. The passenger capacity of these boats depends on the size of the vessel. Weekend trips during summer can be full, while weekday runs are less crowded.
They provide everything you need for fishing, including bait, tackle, rods and reels. You may choose to bring your own equipment. All head boats are staffed with deckhands, who untangle lines, unhook fish, keep your bait bucket full, provide advice, and generally make sure everyone is safe and happy. Theirs is a tough job. It’s customary to tip them.
Most outfits do not allow passengers to bring ice chests, so check first. All party boats sell food and drinks on board. No, not at ballpark prices.
During summer, after everyone has caught their limit of red snapper, the captain usually has time to search for other species. The most common of these are kingfish (king mackerel), vermilion snapper (aka beeliner), and Atlantic sharp-nose shark. But, keep in mind, when you drop a bait 150 foot into the Gulf, you never know what you’re gonna catch.
When you return to the dock, after all the fish are hung on the glory board and the photos are finished, they’ll ask whether you want your fish filleted on the spot. They charge by the pound, usually 50-65 cents.
And, finally, if you’ve never been offshore, then you could not possibly know whether you get seasick. Trust me, trapped on a boat 30 miles offshore with 50 folks you never met is not a good time to find out.
Certain folk remedies for motion sickness might help you avoid this unattractive maritime malady. But, more likely, Bonine and Dramamine would work for you, especially if you take a pill before bed the night before your trip, and another one in the morning. Drowsiness is a common side effect of both, which are available over the counter.
If you prefer going drug free, try consuming anything containing ginger or peppermint. I know someone who claimed a copper bracelet or magnetic wrist band worked for her. Or you could try maintaining a fixed stare on the horizon all day to curb the urge to barf in the ocean. Good luck with that. By the way, deckhands have a strict rule about barfing. Overboard is your only option. Barf in a restroom or on deck, and you better be a big tipper.
If you’re not willing to risk being that guy on the boat, do what I do. Scopolamine is the only preventative cure I trust. It’s a patch I stick behind my ear before going to bed the night before an offshore voyage. It requires a prescription from a doctor, but may not require a visit.
OFFSHORE OPPORTUNITIES (party boats)
- Deep Sea Headquarters: 800-705-3474; www.deepseaheadquarters.com
- Fisherman’s Wharf: 800-605-5448; www.wharfcat.com
- Dolphin Docks: 800-393-3474; www.dolphindocks.com
Go Wild with David Sikes is an ongoing nature and outdoors series for Visit Corpus. David Sikes has over 20 years of outdoor columnist experience and is an incredible resource for all things nature in the Coastal Bend. Follow along with Visit Corpus Christi as David gives us everything we need to know about fishing, hunting, birding and so much more!