Orange Beach FishingThe Gulf of Mexico and the back bays on Alabama’s Gulf Coast have plenty of fish to catch and eat and will continue to have fish available far into the future. Size, length and bag limits on various saltwater species constantly are being changed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Alabama Marine Resources Division to insure an abundance of fish. Why is there a limit now on the number of triggerfish you can catch? In the past, we could keep all the triggerfish we caught, but today triggerfish have length and bag limits. Why can we only keep two red snapper this season, and why are there new regulations on cobia, amberjacks, grouper and many-other saltwater species?

To understand the regulations, one term explains most everything: sustainable harvest, which refers to the size and the number of each species of fish that can be kept from the Gulf of Mexico, so there always will be plenty of fish to catch and keep, both now and in upcoming years. Too, this term refers to making sure we have enough of each species of fish to produce good numbers of young and replenish the Gulf as fish are caught and kept. Another term often misunderstood that’s being used today is catch and release. This term was first introduced in the world of tournament bass fishing by Ray Scott of Montgomery, Ala., the founder of B.A.S.S., who defined this term as catching and keeping the fish you want to eat within legal bag limits and release the rest.

What do these terms mean to you if you’re planning a trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast this year? The Gulf of Mexico is loaded with fish. Today more and bigger red snapper, amberjacks, Orange Beach Chartersgrouper, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, redfish, flounder and other species live off the Gulf Coast than we’ve ever had previously. You can catch and keep your limit of each species. Then, after you’ve caught your legal limit or all the fish you plan to eat, you can continue to catch all the fish that bite your hook and release them. The people who come to the Gulf and go out on a party boat, a charter boat or an inshore boat will want to keep enough fish to have a nice dinner for themselves and their families at one of Alabama’s Gulf Coast’s fine “you hook ‘em, we cook ‘em” restaurants. These anglers generally want to catch and release as many fish as they can in a day. The new regulations governing fishing mean our fishermen are now catching more fish in a day than they ever have in past years. Even when certain seasons are closed, like the red snapper or amberjack seasons, you still can catch and release those fish just as you always have. To learn about length and bag limits, go to www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations. Our captains are glad to see you catch a mess of fish for a nice dinner and take those fish to one of our local restaurants to have them cooked to extend the fun of a great day of fishing on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

For more information about Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, visit www.orangebeach.com/fishing, our easy to access fishing information pages complete with marina and charter captain listings. For any questions, call Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism’s vacation-planning specialists at 1-800-745-SAND (7263). For a list of cook-your-catch restaurants, go to www.orangebeach.com/dining-nightlife/restaurants.