As one of my favorite fishing species, these little guys put up a heck of a fight. We’ll find the bigger ones in deeper water out about 9 miles off the Gulf Coast.
Red Snapper (a white fish) is one of the most highly sought after fish in the early summer right off the Gulf Coast. This popular fish can reach weights of up to 35 pounds. The iconic snapper is so popular, that the season for these fish is extremely small. Red Snapper has been heavily fished since the 1980s, and scientist have determined that they have been over-fished, and thus the limit on the catch and time frame. The 2014 Red Snapper season will start June 1 and end July 10.
In 2007, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries implemented an Individual Fishing Quota program (a type of catch share) for the commercial fishing industry that basically reduced the number of fishermen and improve the continued stock and fishing opportunities for all.
Under the program, managers set a limit on the amount of red snapper that can be caught every year, then allocate fixed shares of this amount to eligible fishermen. Fishermen can harvest their share whenever they choose, which decreases the numbers that are pulled from the Gulf Coast Waters, easing the pressure on this most sought after catch.
The good news is that with this program in place, we are no longer exceeding the limits on catching red snapper, and we are no longer catching as many juvenile snapper. Many scientists in the Gulf of Mexico have reported that the Gulf Coast Red Snapper stock are rebuilding as they had hoped, and commercial fisherman are not exceeding their limits. As a result wildlife managers have recently increased the number of Red Snapper that are allowed.
Red Snapper are typically found in depths of 30 to 620 feet along the eastern coast and in the Gulf of Mexcio. They feed on shrimp ( our favorite bait), crab, worms, cephalopods (octopus, squid, etc.) and some plankton. The deeper the water these fish are picked from, typically the redder these fish tend to be. Their face is long and triangular shaped with the upper most part of the head sloping more strongly that the lower belly. Their jaws are typically equal, and are sometimes slightly projected. They have large canine teeth, which is where they get the name “snappers”.
Red Snapper are great for grilling. While grilling fish is often met with frustration, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. The mistake many make is completely skinning it. The easy fix is to ask your captain to leave the skin on the filets when they prepare them for you. The skin basically acts as a sticky pad that holds the entire filet together, and it protects the meat from the flame. The skin also adds as a unique little bowl to hold it in when it is done grilling. Another option is to ask your captain to gut it, and scale it only. Once you get it home, simply stuff the body of the fish with lemon, butter, (hot chili peppers if you are feeling adventurous), herbs and spice. Make sure the fish, in either case, is grilled over low heat. Fish cooks quickly, so direct flame will guarantee a burn meal. After you’ve spent that much time on the water gathering it, I’m sure the last thing you’ll want is to destroy this feast. There are a number of great ways to cook fish. If you aren’t interested in either of these, check out some of the Snapper recipes on All Recipes.