Hot Topic: Red Snapper

At one time depleted, the Gulf red snapper population has been recovering quickly. However, as the population has grown, recreational fishing seasons in federal waters have gotten shorter. This is due to a number of reasons including increased catch rates, increased recreational fishing effort, extended state fishing seasons, larger fish, and insufficient monitoring of recreational landings.

Fishery managers are now attempting to find new solutions for responsibly managing the recreational red snapper fishery and increasing opportunities for recreational fishermen to harvest red snapper. LDWF has implemented and proposed a number of solutions (click each one for details):

Advocating for state management of the recreational red snapper fishery in both state and federal waters

Improving recreational landings data collection through our LA Creel program

Restructuring the recreational red snapper season in state waters

Increasing scientific sampling of red snapper

Securing additional artificial reefs in red snapper habitat

Securing an exempted fishing permit from NOAA Fisheries

Furthering education and awareness about red snapper issues among Louisiana’s fishermen.

Recreational Landings Update

Click to enlarge.

These landings data are preliminary and subject to change. The historic rate projection is based on average weekly landings from federal waters from 2015 to 2017. The current rate projection is based on the weekly rates observed during the current (2017) 39-day federal red snapper season. These projections are intended to provide general guidance as to what might occur in the future based on what occurred in the past. Weather conditions and other factors could impact weekly landings rates and change when landings reach Louisiana’s quota.

The table below contains preliminary recreational landing data by component and is also subject to change.

Average Weekly Landings*

2018 Red Snapper Weekly Landings Estimates

  Landings (pounds)


Begin Date

End Date

State Charter



Week's Percentage of Allocation

Running Total

Running Percentage of Allocation

21* 5/21/2018 5/27/2018 2,128 86,784 88,912 12% 88,912 12%
22 5/28/2018 6/3/2018 3,064 66,315 69,377 9% 158,289 21%
23 6/4/2018 6/10/2018 5,888 105,971 111,859 15% 270,148 36%
24 6/11/2018 6/17/2018 2,074 17,542 19,616 3% 289,764 39%
25 6/18/2018 6/24/2018 722 7,907 8,629 1% 298,393 40%
26 6/25/2018 7/1/2018 551 45,350 45,901 6% 344,294 46%
27 7/2/2018 7/8/2018 1,015 64,899 65,914 9% 410,208 55%
28* 7/9/2018 7/15/2018 679 94,201 94,880 13% 505,088 68%
29* 7/16/2018 7/22/2018 2,376 21,510 23,886 3% 528,974 71%
30* 7/23/2018 7/29/2018 2,621 119,771 122,392 16% 651,366 88%
31* 7/30/2018 8/5/2018 3,883 63,525 67,408 9% 718,774 97%
32* 8/6/2018 8/12/2018 1,299 17,016 18,315 2% 737,089 99%
Season Closed 8/12/2018
33 8/13/2018 8/19/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
34 8/20/2018 8/26/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
35 8/27/2018 9/2/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
36 9/3/2018 9/9/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
37 9/10/2018 9/16/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
38 9/17/2018 9/23/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
39 9/24/2018 9/30/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
40 10/1/2018 10/7/2018 0 0 0 0% 737,089 99%
Average Weekly Landings* 2,192 59,233 61,424 8%  

*Week 21 only included three days (May 25-27). The season changed to weekends only (Friday-Sunday) beginning in Week 28. The season closed at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 12, 2018.

Current Season and Regulations

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission announced the 2019 recreational red snapper season will begin on Friday, May 24 in both state and federal waters. The season will run weekends only (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday including the Monday of Memorial Day and the Thursday of Fourth of July) with a daily bag limit of two fish per person and a 16-inch total length minimum size limit.

The season will remain open until recreational landings approach or reach Louisiana’s annual private recreational allocation of 19.1 percent or 816,439 pounds of red snapper according to estimates from LA Creel, a 73,439 pound (9.8 percent) increase from last year.

Louisiana is operating under its second year of an Exempted Fishing Permit, which allows the department to manage the private recreational red snapper season in state and federal waters. Under the EFP, participating anglers will be allowed to fish red snapper in state territorial seas and the adjoining federal EEZ, from shore to 200 nautical miles, during the season set by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. NOAA Fisheries will continue to regulate federal for-hire charter vessels.




Private anglers*

May 24, 2019 (weekends only—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) (Plus Memorial Day and Fourth of July)

State and federal waters

State charter boats (no federal Gulf of Mexico charter permit for reef fish)

May 24, 2019 (weekends only—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) (Plus Memorial Day and Fourth of July)

State waters

Charter boats with a valid federal Gulf of Mexico charter permit for reef fish

June 1 - August 2, 2019

Federal waters

State waters, only when the federal season overlaps the Louisiana state season and if you have a Louisiana charter license

*All anglers must possess valid Louisiana Basic and Saltwater Recreational Fishing Licenses as well as a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP) to fish for red snapper in state and federal waters. Exception: Anglers fishing on a charter boat are covered under the charter captain’s ROLP.
State waters – within the 9 nautical mile state water boundary
Federal waters – 9 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles

Current Stock Status and Assessments

New NOAA Fisheries Stock Assessment
NOAA Fisheries just released an updated stock assessment for Gulf red snapper. According to this latest assessment, the Gulf red snapper stock is no longer overfished and overfishing is not occurring, but it has not yet rebuilt to the established Gulfwide biomass target. The Gulf red snapper stock continues to increase; however, a healthy population requires an appropriate mix of fish of different ages. The Gulf red snapper population still contains too few older (greater than 20 years) individuals. Red snapper can live a long time (almost 60 years), and the older red snapper females produce more, higher quality eggs. Restrictions on harvest of red snapper are designed not only to increase red snapper abundance but also to allow red snapper to reach older, potentially more productive ages so the population can fully rebuild.

Sea Grant Population Estimate Project
With a growing red snapper population, fishermen are seeing more and larger red snapper in the Gulf and have challenged the results of recent stock assessments. In response, Congress awarded Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant $10 million for a two-year project to independently estimate the population size of red snapper in U.S. waters of the Gulf. From 2017 to 2019, fisheries experts from the Gulf and beyond, including LDWF, are participating in this project, dubbed the Great Red Snapper Count. Results from this project will be compared with stock assessment results to see how and why there are any differences between them. The goal of this project is to ensure the best management possible for this fishery.

Biology Basics



Size and Growth

Habitat and Migrations

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do red snapper stock assessments include data collected on red snapper populations at oil and gas platforms and artificial reefs located off Louisiana?

2. As the red snapper population in the Gulf is growing, why are the private recreational red snapper seasons in federal waters getting shorter?

3. Who manages the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico?

4. How is the total catch of Gulf red snapper allocated between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors?

5. Who are the Council members?

6. What is the difference between overfishing and overfished?

7. How does LDWF know how much red snapper Louisiana’s recreational fishermen catch?

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Related Links

Red Snapper Biology Brochure

Red Snapper Management Fact Sheet

NOAA Fisheries Red Snapper Management Feature