We are overdue for a blog post so let’s jump right into it! In the spirit of Red Snapper season opening recently, let’s get into the fine print of how to target them.

Where do Red Snapper Live?

Red snapper can be caught anywhere between 30′ and 600′ of water, although in our area, we tend to target them in around 70′-120′. Red snapper are reef fish that live in and around rocks, natural reefs, and artificial structures.

Our area tends to hold them mainly on artificial reefs and what we call “live bottom.” The live bottom is typically 1-3 acres of limestone that holds everything from bait fish to sharks. Artificial reefs can be any sunken structure, from airplanes to chicken coops to old bridge rubble and debris.

Fun fact: There are more airplanes in the sea than submarines in the sky.

While North Florida doesn’t have much natural reef compared to the warmer temperatures south of us, we have plenty of structure to work with. In fact, Pensacola has one of the best snapper fisheries around, so obviously, we are doing something right!

Red Snapper Charter

When is Red Snapper Season?

The state changes the season on Red Snapper from year to year. Usually, the season will open up early to mid-June and proceed to the end of July. Then, depending on how close we are to the quota (the pounds of fish we can catch), we will sometimes have a fall season around mid-October or November.

Keep an eye out on my social media pages; we always post the Red Snapper season dates once announced.

What are the Regulations on Red Snapper?

The limit at the time of this post is two per person, and they have to be 16″ in length. During the beginning of the season, if they are so close that we have to measure them, we throw them back because I know we won’t have a problem catching our limit of at least 18-20″ers. Towards the end of the season, we have to start keeping those 16″ers.

There is enough meat on a 16″ snapper to feed about two people.

What Baits Work for Red Snapper?

Red Snapper aren’t very picky critters. They munch on fish, shrimp, squid, crabs, and even some plankton. Typically, we use whatever bait is available in bulk to us. Common baits for charter captains are Boston Mackerel, Bonito strips, Cigar minnows, and Menhaden.

Make that bait fresh and stanky, and you will catch them!

What Leader Works for Red Snapper?

The most common type of leader used for red snapper is a carolina rig. A carolina rig which consists of a 4-10 oz weight on your main line (depending on current speed), followed by a swivel (to keep your weight up high), and then 4-6′ of leader line with a 7/0 – 8/0 circle hook at the end.

Leader thickness typically changes throughout the year and with water clarity. Early in the year, you can get away with using up to 80lb test. As the fish get targeted heavily and get smarter, you will have to sometimes downsize to as low as 30lb test. I have found that 50lb test works great for me.

Pro tip – always have a “fly line” out when snapper fishing. A fly line for snapper is essentially a carolina rig without the weight. Take your leader with a big chunk of bait, cast up current, pull out some line, and set it in the rod holder. You will be amazed how busy that rod will keep you.

How do You Cook Red Snapper?

Fresh red snapper is hard to beat, no matter how you prepare it. Fried, Broiled, and blackened are my favorite ways to eat it. If you want to get fancy (for me anyway), a good recipe is pecan coconut-crusted red snapper. Heat 1/2 an inch of olive oil in a pan to 350 degrees.

Season your snapper fillets with your chosen seasonings. Roll snapper filets in egg wash. In a separate bowl, have flour and equal parts crushed pecan and shredded sweetened coconut.

After the egg wash, roll the snapper fillets into your flour mix and place into the heated olive oil.

Give it about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown, then flip and repeat. After trying that, you will probably won’t make them any other way!

Look forward to fishing with you guys!

-Captain Austin


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