Make the Most of Your 2024 Red Snapper Season with Toadfish

Written by: Austin King



Time to read 7 min

Even if you aren’t an avid angler, you’ve probably heard of the Red Snapper. Right up there with Mahi Mahi, Chilean Sea Bass, and “Grouper,” Red Snapper is one of the most recognizable fish in the world due to its popularity in restaurants.

Despite its culinary stature, Red Snapper is, nowadays, not only a prized menu item, but also a controversial and somewhat sensitive topic. A few weeks ago, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, responsible for fishing regulations in federal waters off of NC, SC, GA, and the east coast of Florida, announced the dates of the 2024 Red Snapper Fishing Season: 12:01am on July 12th to 12:01am on July 13th. Anglers throughout South Carolina are perplexed: Red Snapper is, seemingly, no scarce resource, so why impose a one-day season? Let’s dive into the facts.

An angler is on a boat and fishing Offshore, holding a massive Red Snapper  and wearing a Toadfish hat

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The Elite Near/Offshore series is designed to target a variety of larger game fish. Perfect combos for bottom fishing, jetties, live bait, and jigging. These are not your dads stiff, clunky boat combos. These modern tapers are a balance of lightweight power that are soft in the tip, but load quickly through the mid-section. Reels feature an IPX5 sealed system, power knob handles, and 25 lb of max drag. Rods feature our toughest spiral blank designs, high-end Fuji K-guides, and a custom Toadfish reel seat. Handles are constructed with a durable x-wrap rubber for superior comfort and control and built-in rubber gimbals.

Rules, Regulations, and Conservation

How are Fishing Regulations Made?

First and foremost, it is important to know that fishing Regulations are split into two major categories: state waters and federal waters. State Regulations are made by each state’s wildlife management entity; such as the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). These councils are responsible for maintaining, managing, and conserving state resources - including a state’s fisheries. When it comes to Saltwater Fishing, a state’s responsibility encompasses anything caught within 3 miles of the coastline. Anything outside of 3 miles, and within 200 miles off of a state’s coast, falls under federal jurisdiction.

The Most Controversial Game Fish on the East Coast: A Brief History

A map details the breakdown of the 8 different regions of Federal waters broken down by the Magnuson-Stevens Act

In 1976, the United States first passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to manage fisheries within U.S. federal waters. The act has since been amended and reauthorized twice (first in 1996 and again in 2006) to best conserve and sustain our nation’s fisheries. The act divides federal waters into 8 regional zones (see below). Here in Charleston, we fall under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC), responsible for federal waters off of NC, SC, GA, and the east coast of FL. Regulations made by the SAFMC are standardized across all four of these states.

A graph details the commercial landings of Red Snapper in South Carolina between 1950 and 2010

In the last 60 years, Red Snapper populations have plummeted (See Above), and because Red Snapper are long-lived, slow growing, and late maturing fish (it takes five years to reach 100% maturity in females), overfishing is a primary concern. The Red Snapper's longer-than-average maturation period is a major concern for resilience. This means that Red Snapper populations recover more slowly than other popular game fish - i.e. Cobia that are 100% mature at only two years old. Additionally, because of the depths that Red Snapper reside in, barotrauma in ARSs is likely to occur when caught. This leads to higher-than-average mortality rates upon release.

Side Note: Of course, there are measures that should be taken ensure that out-of-season fish make it back to the depths safely. Practices such as “venting” or, preferably, using a descending device to return deep water species mitigate mortality rate and allow for fish populations to continue to grow.

What Factors Go Into Making Regulations For Red Snapper?

In 2020, the SAFMC reviewed fishery information for Red Snapper in the region and developed the Fishery Performance Report (FPR 2020 > Red Snapper) to gain a better understanding of the current state of Red Snapper in the South Atlantic region. To do so, they created an advisory panel of 25 members spanning recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, charter captains, conservationists, and consumer representatives from NC, SC, GA, and the East Coast of Florida. The meeting included an airing of observations from every member, most of whom touched on the apparent abundance of Red Snapper in their home waters.

Most notably, a charter captain who operates out of southern South Carolina commented that over the last five years, he estimates to have caught fish equivalent to, or "larger than the South Carolina state record three separate times - this angler also noted that 20- to 30-pound fish are not uncommon. He observed that Red Snapper are coming back strongly off of Georgia and the Carolinas, and the fish are bigger, on average, than further south; further explaining that "the smallest fish he catches from Charleston to Savannah are from 15 inches (which is rare) and 5 to 8 lbs. The larger fish," he says, "are up to 35 pounds, with a couple even approaching 40 pounds."

Panel members made similar comments about pretty much everywhere that falls under the SAMFC, concluding that there are flourishing Red Snapper populations, at differing depths, across the South Atlantic region. The FPR remarked, “AP members agreed that the abundance of Red Snapper in the South Atlantic has increased over the past 10 years, especially off of the Carolinas through North Florida.”

Source: Red Snapper FPR 2020

Red Snapper Populations Are Increasing, So Why Isn't The Season Longer?

Needless to say, it is incredible to see Red Snapper populations making a comeback. However, the population metrics are nowhere near what they were at their peak (see figure 3), and not yet stable enough to have a full-force Red Snapper season. In particular, the discrepancies between biomasses of older, more mature fish during peak populations (~1955) versus now are staggering. This estimation does show progress but not yet sustainable prosperity. 

A graph estimates the biomass and age distribution of South Atlantic red snapper at age at start of year from SEDAR 73 (2021). pg103

Anglers and the SAMFC alike should hope that this upward trajectory continues, so that, in the coming years, the South Atlantic Population is healthy enough to sustain a longer, more bountiful Red Snapper season.

Catching, Cooking, Cleaning, and Enjoying!

Red Snapper Season 2024 with Toadfish: Here's What To Do!

An angler is Offshore Fishing holding a new Toadfish Elite Series Offshore Combo and is hooked up to a big fish

Next Friday, June 12th, we at Toadfish want you to make the most of your Snapper season. So, from the time you load up the boat, to the time you're sitting down to enjoy a Red Snapper feast, let Toadfish be your ocean to table sidekick!

This next section covers the three areas you'll need to consider most when preparing for this Friday:

  • Catching your Red Snapper
  • Cleaning your Red Snapper
  • Cooking your Red Snapper

Catching Your Keeper Red Snapper

When it comes to catching a Red Snapper, Toadfish has you covered! If you haven't had the chance to check them out, we've just released our new line of Offshore Spinning Combos and our currently running an Offshore Bundle Promotion! This bundle includes several free items with the purchase of any Offshore Combo that were hand-picked to put fish in the boat. Personally, I have had the opportunity to test both the Combos and the Offshore Bundle and both have consistently exceeded expectations. From the 30” Gag Grouper and monster Red Snapper to 50+” Cobia, I've seen these rods handle it all - and like absolute champs! They are the perfect accomplice for targeting giant, take-home-size Red Snapper on July 12th.

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Cleaning Your Keeper Red Snapper

A man is using a Toadfish Fillet Knife to Fillet a Cobia on a Dock Fillet table

After catching your massive Red Snapper next Friday, you'll need to fillet it. And, lucky for you, Toadfish has the perfect lineup of Fillet Knives and Fillet Systems to help you take this fish from ocean to table. Our Stowaway System features our patented folding 8.5” Fillet Knife and Folding Cutting Board, which are easily stowable on the boat, in the truck, or at the dock. Additionally, our line of Fixed Fillet Knives is second to none, with our 8” model being perfect for effortlessly filleting 25, 30, or even 35lb American Red Snapper.

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Cooking Your Keeper Red Snapper

A man is preparing a Snapper Ceviche using a Toadfish Fillet Knife and cutting the fish into cubes

Snapper is an extremely versatile and delicious fish, and Toadfish has a few tools that will elevate your time in the kitchen. First and foremost, our patented Ultimate Spatula is a must-have when cooking any flaky-fish like Red Snapper. This spatula features a built-in spoon rest to keep surfaces clean and prevent contamination from bacteria. Additionally, the soft-flex, stainless steel head of the spatula makes grilling, pan-searing, or baking fish simple and easy. Try Snapper on the "Half-Shell" with our Ultimate Grill Set or dice up an awesome Snapper Ceviche, as pictured above. To really spice-up your Snapper recipe, try making a delicious Oscar-Style Snapper dish, topped with local South Carolina Blue Crab cracked and picked with our one-of-a-kind Crab and Lobster Set

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Good Luck Out There!

There will be a lot of unknowns when fishing this Friday, but one thing is for sure: Toadfish is the perfect partner for you this Red Snapper season! Don't forget to tag us @toadfishoutfitters on social media, so we can see how Toadfish is taking your Red Snapper game to the next level!

Written By Austin King