Disagreements regarding stock assessments for red snapper drives a significant amount of debate on whether the fishery should be open, how long it should be open and limits that should be imposed. However, the state Department of Natural Resources is advising recreational fishermen to participate in a data collection project that is in concert with NOAA Fisheries.

During discussion in March at the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting on Jekyll Island, Bill Kelly of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association emphasized the need for better data.

“We’ve got the (harvest) allocation that we think needs to be revisited on an annual basis — it’s easy enough to do with the data inputs nowadays, and then the second would be more frequent spot assessments on commercially important species, or economically important species, whether it’s the commercial sector or the recreational,” Kelly said.

To assist in better data collection, DNR advised different ways anglers can help develop “current information on the age, size and growth of red snapper in the population.”

One way is to discard red snapper carcasses in freezer chests along the coast. To draw in participants, DNR is offering a $50 Academy Sports gift card that will be awarded at random to two people. Also, folks can document their red snapper fishing trips through the smartphone app MyFishCount, or go to MyFishCount.com, and fill out a survey.

Along with these methods, state Coastal Resources Division staff will be on hand at boat ramps to interview people on their catch. For people who are releasing red snapper back into the water, CRD partnered with Yamaha and FishSmart to provide free descending devices that rapidly reintroduce the fish back to the depth they were caught, in an attempt to improve survival.

“Anglers have an opportunity to be citizen scientists by providing red snapper data,” Carolyn Belcher, CRD chief of Marine Fisheries, said in a statement. “During the last mini-season, with the help of anglers, CRD biologists examined 122 carcasses ranging in age from 1-to-19 years, with approximately 95 percent younger than 14. Data collected during 2018 will be combined with that from other South Atlantic states for future population assessments.”

Red snapper fishing is open in federal waters Aug. 10-12, and Aug. 17-19, with recreational fishermen limited to one fish per day with no size restriction. Freezer coolers are in place at Two-Way Fish Camp, 250 Ricefield Way, in Brunswick; Morningstar Marina, 206 Marina Dr. on St. Simons Island; and St. Simons Fishing Club, 1000 Arthur J. Moore Dr., on St. Simons Island.

For the descending devices, anglers are advised to contact Kathy Knowlton at 912-262-3122 or kathy.knowlton@dnr.ga.gov.

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