The red snapper is one of the most popular fish in the gulf and the most popular snapper of all. Because of this, their populations have been under close watch and fishing for them has been difficult. Federal restrictions on red snapper season have been loosened recently, renewing excitement for fishermen everywhere.
Newer anglers who have yet to catch their own red snapper fish may need a few pointers before heading out to the Gulf. Don’t worry, we’ve got the perfect red snapper fishing primer for you. If you follow these nine tips, you’re sure to hoist up your own ruby red snapper on your first trip!
1. Where the Wild Fish Are
Red snappers are both deep water and shallow dwellers. You can find them at any depth between 30 and 200 feet, usually huddled by nearby protective structures. Favorite hot spots include piers, seawalls, and old wreckage.
Don’t start too far out from the shore or you’ll likely get frustrated from spending a lot of time looking for rocky floors.
2. Artificial Hot Spots
One way to reduce your time spent scouting is to hone in on artificial structures. Red snappers are attracted to reefs or the closest thing you’ll get to it in the Gulf. Start at the coast and work your way out, looking for artificial reefs.
3. Returning Customers
Once you find a spot where red snapper have gathered, don’t forget to record your location. You can return to that exact same spot and find them back for more the next day. Red snappers are creatures of habit, and they are less likely to seek out new homes than other species.
The only exception to the rule is if you overfish the same spot.
4. Spawning Seasons
When is the best time to fish for red snapper? Well, the summer is when spawning season begins. The exact dates will change each year based on various spawning conditions. It hits its peak in June and July. Take notice of federal and state waters, as they will have designated fishing seasons for red snapper.
Over 95% of red snapper fished up come from federal waters.
5. Chum it Up
If you can pinpoint a red snapper feeding grounds in more shallow waters, your opportunities get much better. You can employ a wide-area chumming strategy that will whip them into a frenzy. Take a nice block of chunked fish and start chumming around the perimeter.
This will draw out the red snappers from crevices and overlying structures. After that, it’s time to bring out your best bait to reel them in.
6. Picky Eaters
Red snappers are pretty clever fish, they’re not going to be biting onto any limp piece of bait. You need to use live bait or you’ll wind up catching grouper, jacks, or triggerfish instead. We recommend cigar minnows and pilchards for shiny, eye-catching fish. Pilchards are basically larger sardines, so buy them specifically for bigger fish like red snappers.
Drop these live baits deep down with a heavy-duty pole and you may be able to coax some heavy hitters out of holes and deep covered areas. Just make sure you keep the baits refreshed if bites are slow.
7. Jigging for Red Snapper Fish
Besides live bait, you can try your luck with some shiny metal lures. Vertical jigs can emulate a tempting, easy bite to red snappers. This will require a bit of finessing, but vertical jigs will work in a pinch.
Generally, vertical jigs work best in shallow depths of up to 30 feet to catch the most amount of light. This makes them perfect for red snapper territory. You can even try heavy spinning and baitcasting tackle since those reflect so much light.
8. Watch the Currents
The type of boat you’re taking out to catch red snappers can make or break your success catching them. You want to be in a very quiet vessel or risk causing a mass exodus from favored hiding spots. Many reefs in the Atlantic, for example, will test the strength of your motor, which may mean louder approaches.
Stronger currents also call for heavier tackle and no mistakes when hooking live bait. The ocean will take anything that isn’t perfectly secure. Red snappers take a liking to bait that stays in one place against the current.
9. The Second Bite’s the Charm
When you get that hit on the line, don’t yank immediately. Red snappers don’t bite down usually on the first hit. They sort of test things out first before going in. Wait for the second hit on the line and then pull the hook in.
A good hook for this type of fish is the circle hook. This hook doesn’t require any of that jerking action. It requires a steady hand and patience, but the circle hook is full-proof here.
Just reel it in slowly and you won’t need to play tug-of-war too much. Which is great, as red snappers can be up to 30 lbs on an average day.
More Opportunities to Catch Red Snapper
The red snapper fish is such a beautiful catch. The ruby red scales look almost cartoonish out of the water. This deep sea fish can be a challenge for any first-timers, no matter the skill level.
The key is learning their habits, as red snappers love a meal that isn’t far from their dwellings. Focus on durable, reliable, and consistent fishing gear.
Looking for a great way to learn how to fish red snapper and other deep ocean fish? Join us and other fishing enthusiasts on a deep sea fishing charter. It’s like a cruise, but with action-packed catches instead of sunbathing.
Invite your friends for an all-inclusive trip 30-50 miles offshore from Galveston. Climb aboard on either our 36′ Yellowfin “Instagator” or our 42′ Hatteras Sportfishing yacht “Wave Dancer” for a trip of a lifetime. No need to bring any gear, just a fishing license and the price of admission.
You’ll keep your catch and the valuable knowledge to take with your next fishing trips again and again.