Score One for the Home Team By: T J Shea

Keep those rods rigged, as public outcry has led to a longer season for both red grouper and amberjack this year. Red grouper will extend beyond April, and amberjack will open in the month of May. This is huge news for all of us that fish offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.  At their meeting in April, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council announced that red grouper will now be open until the end of June with the possibility of being extended even later, if catch limits are not reached.  And, not only will we have our normal May amberjack season, but we should also get three more months in late summer.   As expensive as it is to run far and fish deep, doing it for mainly one large species is hard to justify. Getting May to target both amberjack and red grouper and June for red snapper and red grouper makes fuel costs much more palatable when you’re coming home with a stuffed fish box.

Red grouper have always been a staple to go along with our jacks and snapper.  This year, however, was set to be the first time that this would not be the case, based on what many in the industry deem extremely faulty Wave 4 data from NOAA on the stock assessment, as well as, overfishing at the end of 2023. Spearheaded by a few key individuals, word got out that “We the People” needed to speak up and stand together.  And, that’s exactly what we did.   It started back in November at the end-of-the-year Gulf Coast Council.  Your phone calls, your emails, your efforts and involvement got us these extra days. Your loud voices forced the hand of the Gulf Council, and changes were made.

Now, let’s talk about the fishing that we are going to do this month!  It’s all about the AJs, which we have been catching and releasing for the last two months between 12 and 20 miles should still be there in May.  We have been crushing them on the biggest live baits you can get; dinner plate size champaign porgys, lizardfish and blue runners don’t stand a chance.  If you have a live well full of white bait or pin fish, toss full dip nets out to keep the smaller jacks busy, giving you a better shot at one of the bruisers.  These fighters have been an absolute blast the last few months, and it will be nice now to be able to bring a few home for dinner.

This May will be an extra sweet one because of you.  Without the power of the peoples’ voices, it would have been very different.