Bottom-fishing fans in the Lowcountry and throughout the Southeast are chomping at the bit (and praying for slick seas) ahead of the three-day red snapper fishing season Aug. 23-25.
Recreational fishing for red snapper has been largely forbidden in recent years. Federal fisheries managers have maintained that the species suffers overfishing, while many commercial and recreational anglers have pointed to flaws in the data collection processes that fuel fishing bans.
Last year, federal regulators implemented a short fishing season for red snapper, in part to open up new opportunities to gather information on the stock.
Short commercial and recreational seasons were approved again for 2013, with the recreational season set to open at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 23 and close at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26.
The bag limit is one red snapper per person per day, with no minimum size limit.
Federal managers might change the commercial and recreational season dates in the event of severe weather. If such conditions arise, NOAA Fisheries will announce any changes to the red snapper season via NOAA Weather Radio and a Fishery Bulletin.
Though short, this week's season will provide a brief window of opportunity for biologists to gather information for the 2014 red snapper stock assessment, which in turn would be used to set future catch limits and regulations.
To help, state fisheries biologists out of Charleston are asking anglers to let them take biological samples from as many red snapper as possible.
Anglers have a couple of options to participate, and everyone who does will be given a free T-shirt, and their name will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a Yeti cooler.
Anglers could drop off the red snapper racks (filleted carcass with head and tail intact) at one of DNR's designated freezers. The racks should be placed in one of the provided plastic bags along with a filled-out catch card.
Freezer locations (open 24 hours a day) include:
Fish On Outfitters, 800 Sea Mountain Highway, North Myrtle Beach
Harrelson's Seafood Market, 4368 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet
Georgetown Landing Marina, 432 Marina Drive, Georgetown
The Boathouse Restaurant, 397 Squire Pope Road, Hilton Head Island
Gold Bug Island (access restricted to members), 1560 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Mount Pleasant
James Island Yacht Club (access restricted to members), 734 Wampler Drive, Charleston
Anglers also could stop by the Marine Center at Fort Johnson and let staffers there quickly sample their whole fish, either by boat or by vehicle. Fish will be sampled 2-7 p.m. each day of the season, and the process should take no more than 10 minutes.
If anglers returning on their boats want to drop by, they should first call (843) 412-3269 to let staffers know they're coming.
Boats can pull into the boat basin, where they will be met by biologists who will take necessary samples (fin clips, otoliths, lengths) and return the whole fish to the angler. The sampling process won't significantly alter the fish or damage its worth as food.
The Hanckel family, of Hanckel Marine, are planning a unique event this weekend designed to encourage boaters to spend some time collecting litter from marshes and beaches around the Lowcountry.
The family is launching a Beach and Marsh Cleanup Day on Aug. 24, which culminates in a party 4-8 p.m. at The Island House on Johns Island. The family, along with Ross Marine and The Island House, will be providing food, beverages and entertainment, and door prizes will be awarded for the most trash collected and largest item found.
Admission is free for anyone who brings the trash they collected from marshes and beaches during the day. Folks who can't get out on the water but still want to attend could simply make a donation at the party to the Wounded Nature, a wounded veterans group.
Elisabeth Hanckel said the idea sprung up after a boating expedition with their two girls, River, 14, and Addie, 9.
“We took them sharks tooth hunting, as we do so many weekends, but we made a stop one day on an island that we hadn't been to in a while,” Hanckel explained. “We were all shocked about the amount of trash that had collected there. We ended up picking up all the trash instead of looking for teeth.”
Angered at the mess, and also by frequent sightings of floating beer cans, the girls and their father Milo started planning a cleanup event.
Reach Matt Winter, manager of niche content and design and editor of Tideline magazine, at 843-937-5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org.