Durable, dependable and usable in any of its broad range of legal sizes, red snapper is easily making its way from gulf waters to restaurant tables — and residential kitchens — with prices that remain steady.

The hurricanes that strafed the Gulf Coast in 2017 made for some mild availability issues in very short spans of time, wholesalers and dock owners said. Boats came in when destructive weather threatened and went out when the weather passed, with plentiful catches continuing on either side of the interruptions.

“When the weather has been right, I’ve had no trouble getting snapper here,” said Benny Miller of the Louisiana Seafood Exchange in Jefferson, La. “The only real impact is when boats run in, but then they run out, and it’s been easy for them to get back out.”

Dock prices to wholesalers have run from $5.50 to $5.85 per pound.

Commercial and recreational interests share the quota that federal authorities have set for red snapper. The allowable catch in the Gulf of Mexico is 13.74 million pounds whole weight. The commercial sector is allowed 51 percent of that, which is 7.01 million pounds.

The recreational fishery has been battling with NOAA over seasonal restrictions that cut permitted angling days to nine per year in some cases. The ongoing drama has not so far affected commercial operations, fishermen and dealers say. Beyond argument is the desirability of the fish, which suits a variety of purposes.

Huge snapper caught offshore can weigh 30 pounds or more. The big fish have a place in the market, especially for sushi. But the smaller fish — those weighing only 2 to 4 pounds — are prized by chefs. They are used for what are referred to as “natural filets,” meaning an 8- to 10-ounce fillet is easily cut, fitting perfectly as a plate portion.

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John DeSantis is the senior staff writer at The Times, a newspaper in Houma, La. and regularly contributes to National Fisherman.

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