If you’ve never fished offshore, google “red snapper fishing in Texas waters.” It’s exciting enough just leaving any Texas port and heading out to the deep, but if you’re lucky enough to get into the red snappers – or many other Gulf fish – it’s a memory that will stay with you for life.
My first offshore trip did that to me, although we mostly just caught trigger fish! But it’s still a vivid memory. When fishing at that depth, you never know what’s going to strike your bait. We got a good look at a colorful dolphinfish – also known as dorado or mahi-mahi – swimming near us on the surface. There was no hope of catching it, however, since our lines were in water over a hundred feet deep.
We were on a party boat out of Port Aransas. There are a number of party boats or private charters up and down the coast that you can buy a seat on to take you out to the blue water where the red snappers hang out. They’re usually near oil rigs or the artificial reefs installed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Some boats go farther out for larger game fish like marlin, tuna and sharks.
But red snappers are the big attraction this week since the season in federal waters opened June 1. State water snapper season is open all year, extending out to nine miles from shore. Beyond that is federal water. There are different seasons and different bag limits, depending upon where you are fishing and on whose boat you’re fishing. The limit in state waters out to the nine-mile distance is four snappers per day, a minimum of 15-inches in length. In federal waters, the bag limit is two snappers per person per day, and they must be at least 16-inches long.
The federal season for anglers fishing from their own boat is open for 97 days. If you’re fishing from a for-hire charter boat, head boat or party boat, the season is 62 days. BUT there are limits on total poundage of fish taken, and the season can be declared closed if those limits are reached. Don’t worry about tracking the poundage limit; TPWD will post closings on its website, social media and in news releases if they occur early.
Anglers can assist TPWD by downloading the iSnapper app on smart phones and report catches there.
But there’s something else to worry about. It’s illegal to fish in fresh or saltwater with bait shrimp from any waters other than the Gulf of Mexico. Never use imported shrimp since they could carry white-spot syndrome virus. If introduced into the Gulf, the disease could wipe out ALL shrimp, crabs and crawfish!
Shrimp from other countries like Venezuela, Thailand or non-Gulf states like California, whether alive, dead or frozen, are illegal under Texas law.