April 7, 2020
45 Days. That’s how many days the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) has approved for the Red Snapper Season for 2020. A balancing act between conservation and fishing enthusiasts working hard the past several years has resulted in a healthy fishery, allowing for this many days, the longest season in recent history.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Red Snapper season opens June 11 until July 25 for both state and federal waters. There may be an extra season in the fall, but that will depend on if the quota is not met. This year’s quota is 1,913,451 pounds, just slightly higher than the previous years. The FWC selected these dates for the season in hopes that the quota won’t be met, and anglers will be able to enjoy a small season in October.
The reason anglers enjoy fishing for Red Snapper so much is the experience getting them into the boat, and they taste pretty darn good, too. Red Snapper are, yes red, with a pointed triangular face and large canine teeth (hence the name, “snapper”). The Florida state record is 46 lbs. 8 oz., but most anglers will find ones 6 to 8 lbs. at the end of their line.
Red Snapper are reef fish, dwelling in deep waters. They can be found throughout the Gulf in waters 30 to over 600 feet deep. Anglers will fish the Gulf of Mexico, eastern coast of North America, Central America, and northern South America. Along the East Coast, there’s a healthy population in Florida and Georgia; it’s rare to find snapper near the Carolinas.
Many people enjoy Red Snapper fillets, arguably the most popular white fish of all. Many people enjoy grilling their Red Snapper. You can also broil, steam, bake, deep-fry, or pan-fry your fillets. Add some lemon and a few spices, some veggies on the side, and you’re sure to enjoy a delicious meal!
To get those fillets, first you gotta go fishing. Fishing for Red Snapper is always a good time, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. The unique topography of the gulf means you don’t need to go far to find the fish, especially along the coast of Florida.
The Panhandle (Pensacola, Destin, Orange Beach, and Panama City to name a few) is a great place to start your journey. The nearby reefs offer productive fishing grounds to find your Red Snapper. The Tampa/Fort Myers area is another popular launch destination. You may have to travel a bit farther into the Gulf to get to good Red Snapper fishing, but it’s well worth the wait.
Most of the time, anglers will use light tackle when fishing for Red Snapper. This is because Red Snapper don’t typically run the line, they use more of a shaking technique to spit the hook. So medium to heavy lines are not required, unless you’re fishing really deep waters. This (how deep you’re fishing), more than anything, will determine if heavy tackle is needed. If you’re in waters around 30 feet deep, try chumming the water to get the Red Snappers actively feeding and away from the underwater reef’s protection. Bait your hook with live or cut bait such as cigar minnows, squid, menhaden, or pilchards with a lead weight, then drop your bait to the ocean’s floor. Once you feel the lead reach the bottom, reel the line up a couple of cranks to get the bait floating just above the ocean’s floor and wait… It won’t take long for a hungry Red Snapper to aggressively strike your bait. It’s recommended to have a gaff or net on board to assist in landing the fish once it’s reeled to the surface.
If you are unfamiliar with fishing for Red Snapper, consider hiring a professional fishing charter. You can rent an entire boat just for your group at about $140 per person for a four-hour trip. A longer trip will be more expensive to help cover the cost of fuel and equipment used – but it’s often worth it to get more time with a rod in your hand. The captain or first mate will also clean and fillet your catch, a definite plus! All you have to worry about is having enough room in the cooler. Whether you fish on your own or with a hired charter, each angler is allowed to harvest two Red Snapper per trip.
While there are more days in this year’s Gulf Red Snapper season, a charter captain’s calendar will fill up fast. If you know your travel days, we recommend reserving your trip as soon as you can. It’s sometimes best to book your charter at the same time you reserve your lodging accommodations. The Gulf is a great place to fish for Red Snapper, and your crew will be smiling ear to ear after a day on the water. (By the way, the FWC allows for Red Snapper season year round on the east side of the state, in the Atlantic Ocean. If your Florida travel dates don’t align with this year’s season, consider staying near Jacksonville, Cocoa Beach, or Fort Lauderdale along the Atlantic Coast for your Red Snapper adventure).
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