Pensacola Fishing Charters Hope for a Great Season

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It’s that time of year again – time to jump in a boat, rev that outboard motor and catch a red snapper.

The Gulf of Florida recreational red snapper season opens Friday and ends in late July, with periodic weekend reopenings in October and November. It’s the longest season since state took over management of red snapperand it couldn’t have happened soon enough for the people who depend on it financially.

Many charter boat captains and other marine recreation service providers who live and work around Pensacola could not make ends meet, without the red snappers swimming in the Gulf Coast waters off Pensacola Beach.

Not only is it the busiest time of year for Pensacola charter boats, but also for industry specialists who cater to tourists and fishing captains vessels.

Charter boat Captain Trevor Angeles unloads the day's catch of red snapper after a successful fishing trip Thursday, June 16, 2022.

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Marina owners love the business too.

Jake Adams, one of the co-owners of the family-owned Day Break Marina, expects Saturday morning to be a possible record day for the number of boats launched from his docks on Pensacola Beach.

Adams estimated that around 80 to 90 boats would be launched at his marina on Friday morning. However, there will be a lot more people on Saturday.

Over the past two years, approximately 140 boats have been launched from the Day Break Marina on the first weekend morning of snapper season.

“During COVID, when no one was working and everything with the weather was beautiful every day, everyone was browsing every day,” he said.

Arkansas tourist Christopher Price takes photos of his red snapper catch after a successful day of fishing Thursday, June 16, 2022.

This year, Adams added, he expects to see more boats entering the water Saturday morning at the marina.

“Usually snapper season opens earlier, but with an opening coinciding with Father’s Day on Sunday and you have the perfect forecast with sunny skies, I mean everything is perfect,” Adams said. “We already have a full board of launches scheduled.”

For those who love to fish in Pensacola, there is no fish like goldfish. The popularity of red snapper is vast.

“It’s a big part of my annual income,” said Alex Renn, boat mechanic and owner of Renn Marine. “It keeps me in business. People use their boats. They love red snapper.

At any other time of the year, Renn can expect to get to work and get a couple of quick calls from customers asking for boat repairs. But, it’s snapper season.

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“Next week, Monday morning at lunchtime, I’ll have 20 phone calls,” Renn said, noting that he makes about a quarter of his annual income during snapper season.

“I mean, it’s huge,” he added.

gone fishing

Charter boat crew Tyler Massey and Riley Riggs unload the day's catch of red snapper after a successful fishing trip Thursday, June 16, 2022. The federal red snapper season began June 4, but the state season begins June 17.

Every summer, a general fervor surrounds the prospect of attracting and keeping a couple of red snappers in season instead of having to reject them.

“Red snappers are the staple of our fishery here in the Panhandle. It’s as good as anywhere in the world,” Adams explained. “You don’t have to go very far to catching them. So I mean, just with everything that’s been said, it’s just the first most wanted fish on the coast.

Captain Chris Phillips, owner of Hot Spots Charters, said the popularity of red snapper fishing is easy to explain.

“They’re fun to catch and good to eat,” he said.

“Plus, they’re a pretty easy target,” continued Phillips, noting anglers’ high success rate when targeting the species.

“I like to explain it like that. You’re taking a guy to Pensacola Beach. He bought a boat for his family. They just got it. They can go down to the fishing tackle store and buy cigar minnows. They can log in and get GPS numbers, and they can go out there and grab something to take home to eat,” Phillips said. “Most fish aren’t like that. Most fish take more knowledge. But I mean, red snapper is our thing. I mean, here is our fish.

Hot Spots Charters is one of the largest boat rental companies in Pensacola.

The company operates several boats. Two of the boats are licensed to fish in federal waters — about nine miles off Pensacola Beach — and were able to begin catching and keeping red snapper in those waters on June 1.

Federal reef fishing licenses are a valuable commodity for charter boat captains because the federal red snapper season begins before the state season. However, there are a limited number of federal permits for the entire Gulf of Mexico, Phillips said.

“The value of the permit can reach around $40,000. There are no more permits issued,” he said, before quickly adding, “There are only 1,200 in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Having two of Hot Spots’ boats have federal licenses has boosted its profits this year, but Phillips is still banking on a great state season as, in general, the charter fishing industry has shrunk in 2022.

“When I say we’re down, we’re down maybe 15% or something like that,” Phillips said. “We are a big company. So 15% is a lot of charters. We did 1,400 charters last year. So 15% is a lot for us. Obviously (the high price of) gas is going to have some effect.

The crew of charter boat Tyler Massey and Riley Riggs unload the day's catch of red snapper after a successful fishing trip Thursday, June 16, 2022.

At the height of the pandemic, Captain Bryant Fields, owner of All Caught Up Fishing Charters, said he received requests to go red snapper fishing from people as far away as California and Seattle, Washington.

“I have people fishing with me from Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. We get people from the East Coast,” Fields said. “But most of the trips I see are from central out of the country, and sometimes I bring people out of Arizona.”

Fields had a federal license but sold it several years ago. Now he relies on the state’s season and is often frustrated that the state periodically changes season dates from year to year.

Last year, Florida’s recreational Gulf snapper season began on June 4, and this year Fields had to cancel more than a dozen pre-scheduled charters after learning that the season’s start date had been pushed back. to June 17.

“When you start talking about the economy right now with inflation, the price at the pump, the cost of our durable goods that we use every day – like our hardware – everything goes up there,” said Fields. “If it continues to climb at the rate it is climbing, we’re either going to run out of enough money to replace our boats, our equipment in four or five years, or we’re going to squeeze ourselves out of the market of what most people are willing to pay to go there.

“Because fishing is not a necessity,” he continued. “You might still want that vacation. You may still have enough money in your bank account to take this vacation with your family. But do you add a $900 fishing trip? »

Still, Fields said things are looking up for this season. His June and July schedules are still filling up and it’s time to go fishing.

Season dates, 2022

The 45 days summer will start on June 17 and run until July 31.

The 12-day fall season is the longest fall season since statehood began and covers the following dates:

  • October 8-9
  • October 15-16
  • October 22-23
  • Nov. 11-13 (Veterans Day Weekend)
  • November 25-27 (weekend after Thanksgiving)

Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8680.

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