Red snapper season in Florida is open in Gulf waters June 1 through August. 1 for federally-permitted for-hire vessels, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

After weeks of anticipation, Florida anglers headed offshore Friday for the first of two weekends that make up the year's recreational season for red snapper.

"It’s going to be mayhem," Captain Mike Mulholland said with a laugh. He's completely sold out for all five days of the season, Friday through Sunday this weekend and Friday and Saturday next weekend. Anglers will be limited to one fish per person, per day, with no minimum size limit.

Mulholland, captain of the Sea Spirit fishing charter boat out of Ponce Inlet, sold out two weeks ago and started making a back-up list, just in case he had cancellations.

He wishes it was more. He's one of many fishermen and charter captains who are ready for federal officials to extend the season.

RELATED: Florida man’s big catch: a “super grouper” weighing 98 pounds

"We're getting something, which is better than nothing," said Mulholland. "But I think they could give us a little more than they're offering right now."

In a highly controversial decision, federal officials placed a moratorium on red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic off Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas in 2010 after concluding the species was overfished. A stock assessment in 2016 concluded that snapper had not yet recovered. Many fishermen do not agree, based on the frequency and size of snapper they catch while fishing offshore. The federal fishery council allowed mini-seasons in 2012-2014, 2017 and 2018.

Fishing groups and state and federal officials are encouraging fishermen to share their data — including size and age of fish caught — to help scientists get a better perspective on the species' health and numbers.

Keep Florida Fishing, an arm of the American Sportfishing Association, encouraged anglers to use the MyFishCount phone app or website developed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council for recreational angler reporting. Participants create a user profile and then provide as much information as they wish about their fishing trips, including targeted species, fish length, fish kept or released, hook type, location, depth fished and weather conditions.

“Red snapper is one of the most popular sportfish in Florida, and tools like MyFishCount are imperative to improving long-term management of this and many other species in the South Atlantic," stated Gary Jennings, director of Keep Florida Fishing. The organization is one of several hoping to craft a long-term solution that will expand recreational access to red snapper and provide a boost to the state's recreational fishing industry.

In addition to the data fishermen can provide to the website or app, researchers and volunteers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be stationed along Florida's east coast this weekend to ask recreational fishermen about their trips and their catch. They'll also collect biological samples of harvested fish to help determine the age of the fish.

READ MORE: 2018 red snapper season begins

However, state officials are encouraging anglers to also submit their information to the MyFishcount.com website or app, "even if information has already been submitted to FWC staff in person."

"The survey responses and biological samples submitted by anglers will provide researchers valuable data about the red snapper fishery," the wildlife agency stated. The wildlife commission's data also will be provided to the Fishery Management Council for its next assessment of red snapper stocks in the Atlantic between Florida and North Carolina.

The state also asked anglers to use best handling practices on fish that are being released including descending devices or venting tools on fish that are experiencing barotrauma. Fish caught in water depths greater than 50 feet may experience the condition, an expansion of gas in the fish’s swim bladder due to pressure changes that causes damage to the swim bladder or other internal organs. "When a fish suffering from barotrauma is released," the council stated, "it is often unable to swim back down to the depth it was captured, making it difficult to survive."

The Fishery Management Council stated fishermen should "be prepared to help improve the chances that a fish captured in deeper water will survive by having a descending device rigged and ready and/or properly use a venting tool."

If anglers catch a tagged snapper, they're asked to call the Tag Return Hotline at 800-367-4461 and provide the species caught, tag number, date and time of capture, catch location, fish length, type of bait used, and whether the fish was kept or released. If the fish is released, the tag should be left in place. 

Learn more at: http://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species/red-snapper

This story originally published to news-journalonline.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.