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Everything You Need to Know About Red Snapper Fishing
What is a red snapper?
The northern red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is a type of snapper most commonly found around the Gulf of Mexico, and is both the most populous and most sought after snapper in the area. It is both an important commercial and recreational fish, and red snapper season is one of the most recognizable times on the gamefish calendar for the area - many anglers have it circled on their calendar half a year ahead of time.
Red snapper are a medium-sized fish and (obviously) very red in color, and red snapper in deeper waters tend to be more red than those that live shallower. While most snapper get their name from their enlarged canine teeth (known as snappers), red snapper actually do not, but still have fairly sharp teeth so be careful handling their mouths.
How big do red snapper get?
Red snapper generally reaches maturity when they reach 15 inches at 2-5 years old, and an average adult might be 20 to 35 inches or more. They can live for up to 50 years, and interestingly will reach maturity faster and at a smaller size in Texas versus other parts of the Gulf. Adults will range from 10 to 20 pounds, and generally deeper water will mean larger fish.
Whats the biggest red snapper ever caught?
The world record red snapper weighed a crazy 50 pounds 4 ounces and was caught off the Louisiana coast by Doc Kennedy in 1996.
Where is the best place to catch red snapper?
While they range all over the Carribbean and up the Atlantic Coast, red snapper are most common and most abundant in the Gulf of Mexico. The most popular places to catch red snapper are in the panhandle of Florida or off the coast of central Texas.
Red snapper live on the bottom, and will inhabit rocky bottoms or other structure and reefs (or artificial reefs like offshore oil rigs). They are social fish and will form large schools where they find good structure, which is why every guide has a series of honey holes of their own where they know schools of snapper are sure to be. Schools also tend to be made up of fish of similar sizes.
Red snapper will generally live between 30-300 feet deep, with bigger fish inhabiting deeper waters further from shore. Their preferred habitat changes as they mature, and while younger fish will inhabit more open areas, older and bigger fish will seek more and more cover.
When should I catch red snapper?
The season for red snapper is interesting because it does not depend on fish behavior, but rather regulations set by the NOAA to set catch limits. The NOAA has set rebuilding plans for red snapper fisheries both in the Gulf of Mexico and on the lower Atlantic Coast, and both of these plans look to rebuild populations into the future. As such, there are annual catch limits, size limits, and season limits for both commercial and recreational anglers. Seasons and limits are set each year, and the federal limit can also differ from state water limits. The total catch limit is generally divided as 49% recreational and 51% commercial.
How do you catch red snapper?
Red snapper will eat almost anything, but live or frozen bait is generally easier than lures, although jigs are definitely still successful. The tricky thing about red snapper is that they tend to nibble rather than swallow, so you need to have a light touch and know when to hook them. The common frustration of many an angler is putting bait after bait down and jigging it only to reel up empty hook after empty hook.
Bigger snapper like structure, so to target them you'll hit reefs, wrecks, and offshore rigs. Sometimes the snapper can be caught by freelining, but generally they will be on the bottom. It goes without saying that if you want to catch a big red snapper, you need to use a big bait, generally a whole squid.
If you are releasing fish, you are required by law to use circle hooks and dehooking devices.
Are red snapper good to eat? What are the best red snapper recipes?
Red snapper might be king of the white fish. It is a prized fish for anglers to catch and eat as well as a prized fish commercially. The texture is firm and slightly sweet and nutty that goes well a number of different ways with a number of different ingredients. Many people will cook it whole or grill it skin-on, which will protect the fish from the flames and help it retain some of its flavor.