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Red Snapper Research on the Atlantic Coast

map of Florida showing the 9 inlets where data was collected

The recreational harvest season in the South Atlantic is an opportunity for FWC to collect important data from harvested fish that is needed for future population assessments. During the recreational red snapper season, FWC biologists conduct interviews with anglers, record the number of fish harvested and collect biological samples, including otoliths (also called ear stones), which are used to determine the age of red snapper.

During the Atlantic red snapper season, FWC collects data from recreational anglers returning from fishing trips near 9 inlets on the east coast of Florida:

  • Cumberland Sound (Fernandina Beach)
  • St. Johns River (Mayport/Jacksonville)
  • Vilano Inlet (St. Augustine)
  • Matanzas Inlet
  • Ponce Inlet (Daytona/New Smyrna)
  • Port Canaveral
  • Sebastian Inlet
  • Fort Pierce Inlet
  • St. Lucie Inlet

New in 2021! Biologists will ask to collect a small piece of fin tissue from harvested fish for a large-scale genetics study conducted by University of Florida, Texas A&M, FWC and other researchers throughout the region. The study employs a new technique called close-kin mark-recapture (CKMR) that uses genetic markers to identify closely related individuals (i.e., kin), which serves as a useful measure for quantifying the total number of red snapper in the Atlantic population. The method is similar to “tagging” fish and using information on their recapture histories to estimate the total population size. CKMR has been used successfully in other parts of the world to study bluefin tuna and great white shark populations. Learn more about the Great Red Snapper Count in the Atlantic.

Participation in FWC’s surveys is voluntary, though anglers are encouraged to take part if approached by an FWC biologist.


Data collection methods include:

Private Boat Anglers

Biologists conduct surveys with anglers as they return from fishing and also ask for permission to collect biological samples from harvested fish. These surveys are used to determine how many boats participated in the red snapper season, the numbers of fish harvested, and important biological information that will be used in future population assessments.

Charter Boats

Charter boat operators with a federal permit to harvest snapper in the South Atlantic are asked to keep a log of their trips and report their red snapper catch to FWC. Biologists contact vessel operators by phone to collect the information, unless captains choose to mail the log. Biologists also meet some charter vessels as they return from trips to collect biological information from harvested fish.


Headboats are already required to report all fishing activity to National Marine Fisheries Service and are not surveyed by FWC during the red snapper season. Anglers returning from a headboat fishing trip may be asked for permission by a state or federal biologist to collect samples from harvested fish.

We appreciate all the anglers and captains who take time to participate in surveys and allow biologists to sample their catch. The red snapper sampling effort on the east coast of Florida is a great example of scientists and fishermen working together to collect high-quality data needed to manage Florida’s fisheries.


Final Reports - Atlantic Red Snapper Sampling Efforts