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NOAA Announces the 2019 Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Recreational For-Hire Season and Clarifies Permit Regulations for Vessels Fishing in Federal Waters

March 07, 2019

FB19-014 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Sustainable Fisheries, 727-824-5305



The 2019 red snapper fishing season for federally permitted for-hire vessels is 62 days in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Season dates are:

  • Federally Permitted For-Hire Vessels: June 1, 2019, 12:01 a.m., local time, until August 2, 2019, at 12:01 a.m., local time.
  • Private Anglers Note:  The Gulf states will each set their private angling season.  Please check with your state agency for specific dates and read below.



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  • The red snapper total recreational quota is 7,399,000 pounds.  57.7% is allocated to the private angling component and 42.3% is allocated to the for-hire component. 
  • For the for-hire component:
    • The 2019 annual catch target for the federal for-hire component is 2,848,000 pounds whole weight.
    • The number of days for the federal for-hire component to harvest its annual catch target was projected using recent catch rates and mean weights.
  • For the private angling component:
    • NOAA Fisheries issued exempted fishing permits for 2018 and 2019 that allow each Gulf state (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida) to set the season for the private angling component for red snapper caught in state and federal waters that are landed in that state.  Each state will provide a separate announcement notifying anglers when their season will open and close. 
    • Private anglers with the appropriate state licenses are exempt from the federal closure and are able to land fish caught in federal waters only during seasons specified by the states. 
    • States will monitor red snapper private angler landings and close their seasons if the state’s assigned quota is reached or projected to be reached.



  • Vessels with a Federal Gulf Charter/Headboat Permit for Reef Fish:
    • Persons aboard a federally permitted for-hire vessel cannot fish for or possess red snapper in federal or state waters when the federal for-hire season is closed.
    • If the federal permit is transferred off the vessel, persons aboard the vessel cannot, any time during that fishing year, fish for or possess red snapper in federal waters when the federal for-hire season is closed.
    • These restrictions apply even if the vessel is not acting as a charter vessel, for example, the captain is taking his family fishing.
    • These restrictions apply regardless of any other permit on the vessel.
    • Relevant regulations: 50 CRF 622.39(c) and 622.41(q)(2)(iii)(B).
  • Anglers fishing from private vessels:
  • State licensed for-hire vessels without a Federal Gulf Charter/Headboat Permit for Reef Fish:
    • The exempted fishing permits do not allow for-hire vessels to fish for or possess red snapper in or from federal waters without a federal for-hire permit.
    • Please see state regulations relative to fishing for red snapper in state waters.
  • Vessels with a Federal Gulf of Mexico Commercial Reef Fish Permit:
    • Persons aboard the vessel can recreationally fish for red snapper when the private angling season is open, if they declare they are recreationally fishing when they hail out through the vessel monitoring system – VMS, or call-in system.
    • While on a recreational trip, each person aboard is restricted to the bag limit, no commercial quantities of any reef fish species can be on board, and the fish may not be sold.
    • This does not apply if the vessel also has a Federal Gulf Charter/Headboat Permit for Reef Fish (see above).
    • Relevant regulations: 50 CFR 622.39(b), 622.28(e), 622.38(a)(2).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What are the quotas and annual catch targets for 2019?

  • The quota for red snapper in the Gulf for both the commercial and recreational sectors is 15.1 million pounds whole weight.  The recreational sector is allocated 49% of that total, which is 7,399,000 pounds whole weight.
  • The red snapper total recreational quota is allocated 57.7% to the private angling component and 42.3% to the for-hire component.
  • The private angling annual catch target is 80% of its quota and the federal for-hire annual catch target is 91% of its quota.  This buffer helps minimize the potential for a quota overage.


Sector or


2019 quota

 (pounds whole weight)

2019 Annual Catch Target

(pounds whole weight)

All Recreational



Federal for-hire



Private angling




Why did NOAA Fisheries issue the exempted fishing permits?

  • The federal recreational fishing season for private anglers had been getting shorter each year.
  • Many fishermen were frustrated with the increasingly restrictive federal management of red snapper and saw a need for increased cooperation between state and federal governments.
  • NOAA Fisheries recognized a need for new and innovative solutions are needed to manage the Gulf recreational red snapper fishery.


Where can I find more information on the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico?


NOAA's Text Message Alert Program allows you to receive important fishery related alerts via text message (SMS).  Standard message & data rates may apply.  You may opt-out at any time.


Text alerts you may receive include:

  • Immediate fishery openings and closures.
  • Any significant changes to fishing regulations that happen quickly.

Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFRECFISH to 888777
  • Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFCOMMFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLRECFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLCOMMFISH to 888777
  • Caribbean Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text CARIBFISH to 888777



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Other contacts:

Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707

  Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on March 13, 2019