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NOAA Announces the 2021 Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Recreational For-Hire Season

March 23, 2021

FB21-018: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Daniel Luers: 727-824-5305, Daniel.Luers@noaa.gov


The 2021 red snapper fishing season for vessels with federal for-hire reef fish permits is 63 days in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf).  

  • The season for federally permitted for-hire vessels will begin at 12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2021, and will close at 12:01 a.m., local time, on August 3, 2021.
  • Private Anglers Note:  Each Gulf state will set the private angling season for state and federal waters.  Please check with your state agency for specific dates.


  • The red snapper total recreational quota is 7,399,000 pounds whole weight.  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 2021 quota for the federal for-hire component is 3,130,000 pounds whole weight.
    • The annual catch target for the federal for-hire component is 2,848,000 pounds whole weight, which is 91% of the quota.
    • 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.  


  • 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, at 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).
  • State licensed for-hire vessels without a Federal Gulf Charter/Headboat Permit for Reef Fish:
    • The delegation of management to the Gulf states for the red snapper private angling component does 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.
      • This does not apply if the vessel also has a Federal Gulf Charter/Headboat Permit for Reef Fish (see above).
    • 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.
    • 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 2021?

  • 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 for-hire component is allocated 42.3% of the recreational sector quota.
  • The federal for-hire annual catch target is 91% of its quota.  This buffer helps minimize the potential for a quota overage.


Sector or


2021 quota

 (pounds whole weight)

2021 Annual Catch Target

(pounds whole weight)

All Recreational



Federal for-hire



Private angling




How is the season length determined?

  • The season is set based on the annual catch target.
  • The annual catch target is the same this year as it was last year.
  • In setting the season, we assume daily catch rates to be the same as in recent years.
  • Because the daily catch rate was slightly lower in 2018-20 than it has been in the recent past, the season length will increase from 62 days last year to 63 days this year.


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


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 23, 2021