Campaign Updates

Break out the bottom tackle! Red snapper, triggerfish opening weekends off Alabama in July

Posted on June 26th, 2014


Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley along with state conservation department Marine Resources Division announced Thursday that state waters will open for the harvest of red snapper and gray triggerfish on all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in July.

Those dates include the weekends of July 4-6, 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27.

“The state red snapper season will be open during three of the biggest weekends for fishing: the Fourth of July weekend, the Roy Martin Dauphin Island Young Anglers Tournament and the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo,” Bentley said. “Red snapper fishing is popular along the Alabama Gulf Coast and the extra fishing days are good for the Gulf Coast economy. I welcome fishermen to take advantage of the additional opportunities for red snapper fishing in our waters.”

ADSFR President Gene Fox said the governor’s announcement was a pleasant surprise and that the Rodeo board and he are excited about the prospects of bringing these popular gamefish back into the rodeo.

“We would like to thank Gov. Bentley, the conservation department, Chris Blankenship and the Department of Marine Resources for their hard work and commitment to making these two popular reef fish available to fishermen at this traditional time of year,” Fox said. “The Rodeo board is already working hard to determine how we will incorporate them into the 81st Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.”

Rodeo tickets are on sale now.

State officials also chose to open the season out to 9 nautical miles instead of constraining it to the federally recognized 3 nautical miles. The extension of state territorial water out to 9 nautical miles was approved by the Alabama legislature earlier this year.

Conservation Commissioner Gunter Guy Jr. said Louisiana claimed a 9-mile territorial water boundary last year, and as far as he can tell, there has been no overt federal backlash.

“The Alabama legislature did pass that for us this year and we believe, and Gov. Bentley agrees, that our citizens should reap the benefits,” Guy said.

Guy warned, however, that since this new distance is not currently recognized by the federal government, persons possessing red snapper or gray triggerfish farther than 3 miles from shore could receive citations from federal or state law enforcement officers.

During this extended season, the Marine Resources Division will recognize the legislative 9-mile limit for the harvest of red snapper and gray triggerfish, but still may have no choice but to write a ticket for illegal possession of fish depending on the circumstances, Guy said.

As an example, Guy said a person checked 15 miles offshore and found in possession of red snapper or triggerfish would likely be cited even if those fish were caught inside of the 9-mile July season boundary because there would be no way to prove where they were caught and officers must assume they came from federal water considering the circumstances.

“The best suggestion I would have for fishermen is to either go catch your snapper or gray triggerfish, and then back in or go out into federal waters and catch your other fish there, then catch your red snapper and gray triggerfish in our state waters on the way back in,” Guy said.

Besides the additional benefit for fishermen, Guy added that Gov. Bentley also understood the potential economic impact the 12 fishing days could have on coastal communities and that the additional catch would provide additional data vital to the state’s efforts to become more involved in the management of the reef fish complex off its coast.

The nine-day federal red snapper season ended June 10 and gray triggerfish have been off-limits in federal water since April when the National Marine Fisheries Service the recreational sector had caught its quota.

Since charter boat captains holding federal reef-fish permits must fish to the strictest regulations, they will not be able to take advantage of open state water since the federal season is closed.

Gray triggerfish is not scheduled to reopen in federal water until Jan. 1, 2015.

The bag limit will be two red snapper per person per day and two gray triggerfish per person per day. The minimum size for red snapper will be 16 inches total length and the minimum size for gray triggerfish will be 14 inches fork length. Federal water remains closed to red snapper and gray triggerfish harvest.

Alabama MRD Director Chris Blankenship said diver surveys by division personnel last week revealed that there were plenty of legal red snapper living on the state’s nearshore structure.

“The federal red snapper season this year was only nine days. Our biologists have assessed the resource in our waters, and we feel that there are still enough red snapper in Alabama waters to open an additional season in order to give our citizens the ability to catch more red snapper this year,” Blankenship said. “The red snapper reporting compliance from the recreational and charter fishermen during the federal season was very good. The information obtained from the red snapper reporting program gives us confidence that we have the biomass on our nearshore areas to open this season in state waters for sustainable harvest.”

Southwest Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne, who has been working to improve red snapper management in the Gulf through changes to the Sustainable Fisehries Act, known as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, said in an emailed response that he supports Gov. Bentley’s actions.

The statement notes that Byrne also recognizes that this decision still leaves far too many reefs off limits for red snapper fishing because they are in federal waters. That’s why he has been proud to support and is going to continue to push for legislation that removes the federal government from the process, expands Alabama’s state waters, and returns authority back to coastal states.

Blankenship reminded fishermen that are required to report red snapper harvest to the Marine Resources Division. Only one report is required per vessel trip.

Fishermen can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores, online at, by telephone at 1-844-REDSNAP (1-844-733-7627) or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches.

Register catches here.

“We will continue to work with the federal government and the other Gulf States to responsibly manage this great fishery in federal waters while also allowing proper management in Alabama waters,” Guy said. “Governor Bentley and the Department of Conservation appreciate the participation of our fishermen in the Marine Resources Division Red Snapper Reporting Program. The information from this program is vital to improving the access of our citizens to red snapper fishery.”