Saltwater recreational fisheries receive little attention compared to their commercial counterparts. Yet recreational fisheries can suffer from many of the same symptoms of open access as commercial fisheries. Regulations designed to allocate a scarce supply, such as seasonal closures augmented with bag and size limits, can result in significant losses of welfare to anglers. We provide an estimate of these foregone benefits by estimating the potential gains to implementing rights-based reforms of the headboat portion of the recreational red snapper fishery in the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM) – a fishery which has suffered from a regulatory spiral of shortened seasons and lowered bag limits in spite of rebuilding stocks. We gather primary survey data of headboat anglers that elicits their planned number and seasonal distribution of trips under status-quo management and alternative arrangements with year-round retention of red snapper and compensating increases in prices or lowered bag limits. We utilize these data to estimate a Kuhn-Tucker demand model of anglers’ seasonal demand for trips as a function of the ability to retain red snapper and bag limits and prices. We find that a hypothetical rights-based policy under which vessels could offer their customers year-round fishing, in exchange for lower per-angler retention and increased prices, could raise individual headboat anglers' welfare by an average of $139/year. These estimates, when placed in the context of the overall scope of recreational fishing around the world, suggests that status-quo management of scarce fish stocks may cost anglers billions of dollars a year.