Red snapper are one of the most popular fish in the Gulf of Mexico but state and federal seasons restrict where and when you can catch them. Fortunately, there are places with better access and longer seasons that can keep you on the water for the majority of the year. Once even those spots close for red snapper you can always turn to a handful of other snapper species that don’t have seasons and have you covered for the rest of the year. Here are the ways that you can catch snapper throughout the year without violating seasonal restrictions.
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We have a whole blog that breaks down federal and state red snapper seasons in detail which will help you beat the crowd. The best way to make the most of the federal red snapper season is to pick a destination and book early. When summer comes around and the federal dates are announced, being able to book right away is the best way to lock in the dates you want. After the federal red snapper season remains open in several states along the Gulf but Alabama and Texas are usually open the longest.
In Alabama, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are surrounded by thousands of reefs that hold red snapper in state waters. But when Alabama state waters close Texas is usually the only place to go. South Padre Island along with the more southern ports like Corpus Christi or Port Aransas has excellent state water red snapper fishing thanks to the steeper continental slope which means the water gets deep more quickly. The state red snapper season in Texas has traditionally run year round but in 2021 the quota was met before the new year so the season closed. With last year's early closure, year round red snapper fishing is no longer guaranteed but there are alternative snapper species that you can target.
When red snapper season closes in your favorite waters, there are seven other snapper species with no closed season in the Gulf. Many of these snapper species share similarities with red snapper including being delicious and putting up a strong fight. Vermillion and mutton snapper are the most similar in appearance and behavior to the red snapper. Lane and yellowtail snapper are smaller but they are still a handful. These beautiful fish are distinctly different in appearance and can be found in slightly more shallow waters.
Mangrove snapper on the other hand prefers shallow waters from grass beds to mangroves. While small cubera snapper can resemble mangrove snapper, once they grow up the difference is obvious. Cubera are the largest of all the snapper species capable of reaching over 5 feet long and 100 pounds. Queen snapper hang out in the deepest water sometimes requiring deep drop gear to reach them. These long elegant fish are bright pink or red and offer a similar but more extreme version of bottom fishing compared to red snapper.
Each of these snapper species offers unique challenges which add to the experiences you can have while snapper fishing. One thing that’s consistent between all of these snapper species it’s that they are all delicious and any of your red snapper recipes will work. If you are an angler that loves bottom fishing, try targeting one of these species when the seasons close. Before you head off to catch all of these snapper species, be sure to check harvest restrictions and bag limits. In addition to the previously mentioned species in the gulf, there are even more snapper species that can be caught around the world and are well worth a trip if you want to take your obsession to new places.
With the federal red snapper season only lasting a short time you can make the most of it by planning ahead and being ready to snag the dates you want. State seasons can extend your window of opportunity to catch some snapper but these can also be fairly short unless you fish in Texas or Alabama. These two states have the longest seasons in the Gulf of Mexico and some of the best habitat that holds fish closer to shore. For anglers who love catching snapper but are limited by short seasons or want to try something new, there are plenty of other snapper species to catch. These snapper species come in a variety of sizes and inhabit waters that range from inshore grass beds to offshore at 1600+ feet deep. Taking advantage of all of these opportunities opens the door to living the dream and catching snapper throughout the year.
Updated on December 24, 2022
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