Twenty-five years ago, you could head offshore to deep water, drop anchor, fish all day and never catch a red snapper. But today, you can run 50 miles west, pitch bait over the side and hook 100 or more of these prized sportfish on just one spot.

Why, then, will local anglers have just 10 days to fish for the Gulf of Mexico's most fought-over finfish? The answer has more to do with people and politics than fish.

Long before grouper became the rock star of local restaurants, Floridians ate red snapper. In the early 1900s, it was a mainstay of Ybor City's legendary Columbia Restaurant.

But after World War II, migration and the baby boom swelled Florida's population with fishermen. Inexpensive fiberglass boats, better motors and advances in navigational technology allowed them to catch more red snapper.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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