Louisiana has closed recreational red snapper season

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FILE – In this May 16, 2012, file photo, fresh red snapper is iced and ready for sale at Aquila Seafood in Bon Secour, Ala. The group that manages Gulf of Mexico fishing in federal waters says states can keep managing anglers’ catch of red snapper. The popular sport and table fish is still recovering from nearly disastrous overfishing. The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council announced the decision Thursday, April 4, 2019 in Biloxi, Mississippi. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana has closed its red snapper season for recreational anglers.

And, though fishing license sales have gone way up during the coronavirus pandemic, that probably doesn’t have much to do with red snapper catches, said a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The 2018 weekends-only season ended Aug. 12, Rene LeBreton noted Thursday.

Fishing license sales from March through May were up nearly 50% over the same period last year, according to figures released earlier by the department. “We hope the increase in license sales is also providing some much needed relief for the locally owned restaurants, docks and sporting goods stores that depend on fishing for their livelihoods,” LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet said in June.

Saltwater licenses are part of that increase. However, LeBreton said, “A lot of saltwater is just fishing near marshes and bays but not going offshore.”

Officials closed this year’s season a minute after midnight Thursday. When the closing was announced Wednesday, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said 78% of the state’s quota had been taken by July 28, and above-average landings were expected for the first full week in August.

The department updated its catch figures Thursday, saying 85% of the 784,332-pound quota had been taken by Aug. 2. The season opened May 22, allowing anglers to take red snapper from Fridays through Sundays.

Once the final figures are in, the department will consider options if any quota remains. Possibilities could include opening a second season or adding any remaining quota to the one set for next year.

Last year, the season ran seven days a week from May 24 through mid-August, switching to weekends after the state’s data-collection program determined fishermen had neared the 816,439-pound quota. The season was expanded back to seven days a week on Thanksgiving Day.

“Last year was an anomaly. The weather just didn’t play out for anglers,” with lots of bad-weather weekends, LeBreton said.

Each state on the Gulf of Mexico has been managing its own recreational red snapper season since 2018.

Recreational catches of the popular sport and table fish had been a contentious issue for years. Federal regulators said anglers regularly went far over their limits and cut each year’s estimated excess from the following year’s Gulf-wide catch limit. State regulators said federal estimates were far too high. They now take regular surveys to estimate the catch.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service continues to regulate commercial and recreational charter boat catches.

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY Associated Press

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