When it comes to fishing charters and red snapper season it can be very difficult to understand and that’s mainly because not all charter boats or charter captains have the same season. I know, sounds crazy right?
To start with, red snapper as a species are divided into 2 different sectors, commercial and recreational. Contrary to what many people believe, charter fishing does not fall under the commercial sector. Commercial is only fish that are sold to restaurants or fish markets and this requires special permits and is highly regulated. Each year 51% of the allocation goes to commercial fisherman and 49% is left to the recreational sector.
Then, the recreational quota is divided again between recreational anglers and charter boats, but not all charter boats. 57.7% is allocated to the private angling component and state licensed charter boats, while 42.3% is allocated to the federally permitted charter boats. For 2020, the red snapper total recreational quota is 7,399,000 pounds whole weight.
In Pensacola, we actually have significantly more state licensed guide boats than we do federally permitted boats. State licensed boats are only allowed to fish up to nine miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, so you’ll find that the majority of the smaller inshore / nearshore charter boats are state licensed.
Your six-pack, multi-passenger and true offshore charter boats will typically be federally permitted, and this allows them to travel over the nine-mile mark to fish. There are approximately only 1,200 Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Permits and it’s a limited entry business, meaning no new ones are issued. If you want one you must buy it from a current permit holder and the market value these days is about $25,000.
In recent years, the National Marine Fisheries Service (the federal government arm that controls fishing regulations) had handed over the management of red snapper to the five Gulf of Mexico states including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but it’s under the heavy conditions put forward by the federal management. It’s far from actually being managed and controlled by the states.
To simplify it, the 2020 Gulf red snapper recreational season is set at 45 days and will be open June 11 through July 25, with a possible fall reopening if quota is available for private recreational anglers and state licensed guide boats. The season for federally permitted charter boats will be sixty two days from June 1 to August 2.
At Hot Spots, we have both state licensed and federally permitted boats. During snapper season all of our boats fish for red snapper, but the biggest difference is that state licensed boats rely on good weather and when it’s windy and rough they are forced to stay and snapper fish in Pensacola Bay.
Our inshore / nearshore trips, which are the state licensed boats are priced at $500 for 4 hours, $575 for 5 hours, and $650 for 6 hours for up to 4 anglers, then $75 each for a 5th and 6th angler. We highly recommend at least a 5-hour trip if you want to target red snapper. These trips are operated on our 22-24 foot bay boats and we have 8 of them available daily.
Our offshore 6-pack charters, the federally permitted boats are priced at $1,200 for 6 hours and $1,400 for 8 hours for up to 6 people. If you have more than 6 people, you’ll need what we refer to as a multi-passenger boat and those trips start at $1,400 for 6 hours but are in high demand and are often booked well in advance, especially on weekends.
If you’re looking to reserve a date to go red snapper fishing during the 2020 season give us a call at (850) 449-5555 or book through our online booking system at hotspotscharters.com.