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Gulf of Mexico Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Snapshot

October 11, 2017

Gulf of Mexcio saltwater recreational fisheries fact sheets highlighting recent regional trends, economic impacts, fishing opportunities, and issues of interest in Alabama, west Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Saltwater Recreational Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

In the Gulf of Mexico, thriving recreational fisheries support vibrant coastal economies. With more than 100 species of fish available to saltwater recreational fishermen at any time of year, many unexplored recreational opportunities await anglers in the Gulf. While some species like gag grouper, greater amberjack, and red snapper have specific seasons, many others like jacks, mackerels, cobia, and other snappers and groupers can be caught year-round. In partnership with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and its member states, NOAA Fisheries is working to ensure sustainable and enduring saltwater fishing opportunities along the Gulf Coast.

100+ species of fish are available to saltwater anglers in the Gulf of Mexico at any point in the year.


Primary Target Species

Nearly one third (29%) of all recreational fishing trips in the Gulf targeted these popular recreational species. Of those trips, the primary target species breakdown is as follows:

Gulf of Mexico fact sheet fish caught pie chart Red Drum 33% trips Spotted Seatrout 33% tripsSpanish Mackerel 12% trips Sheepshead 7% trips Gray Snapper 6% trips Red Snapper 6% trips Sand Seatrouts 3% trips White Grunt <1% trips Atlantic Croaker <1% trips

Source: Marine Recreational Information Program


Popular Recreational Species in the Gulf of Mexico*

Gulf of Mexico fact sheet fish harvested and released information.JPG
Source: Marine Recreational Information Program
*Release data and select species data are unavailable from Texas and Louisiana.
The table above depicts 2015 catch data. Catch totals and catch-by-area vary annually based on
regulatory, ecological, meteorological, and other factors.


2015 Economic Impacts in the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico fact sheeet  economic impact by state.JPG


Diving Deeper

Red Snapper

The Gulf’s most iconic species, red snapper, is among its greatest management challenges requiring creative and collaborative solutions. Summer 2017 saw a novel federal-state agreement to provide significant additional recreational fishing opportunities for Gulf of Mexico red snapper. This solution came in response to years of management challenges. Overfishing of Gulf red snapper ended in 2009 and the population grew rapidly. As the population rebounded, the total red snapper quota rose from a low of 5 million pounds in 2007 — when the rebuilding plan was established — to a high of 14.3 million pounds in 2015 — the highest quota ever allowed. While anglers and managers alike expected the federal red snapper recreational fishing season would get longer as the stock recovered, just the opposite has proven true. This is the result of a combination of factors: longer state seasons, greater numbers of fishermen able to more easily find and fish
for red snapper around the Gulf, red snapper being caught more quickly by fishermen, and the larger size of fish being caught. The average size of a red snapper doubled in the last 10 years. As a result, the quota for red snapper is harvested more quickly, which requires the season to be shortened over time despite large and historic increases in allowable catches. The new federal-state agreement changes this dynamic and is expected to deliver additional recreational fishing opportunities and associated economic benefits to the Gulf region.


Learn More

In the Southeast region, NOAA Fisheries works closely with the Gulf Fishery Management Council, as well as with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management
Council and its member states, to cooperatively manage recreational fisheries.

For more information visit NOAA Fisheries Southeast Region website.

Sean Meehan: Southeast, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean Recreational
Fisheries Coordinator, sean.meehan@noaa.gov, (727) 824-5330

Kim Amendola: Southeast Recreational Fishing and Communications Specialist,
kim.amendola@noaa.gov, (727) 551-5707

Ken Brennan: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Recreational Fisheries
Coordinator, kenneth.brennan@noaa.gov, (252) 728-8618

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on 09/07/2022