How to Fish for Red Snapper in the Gulf

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Among the many fish found in the Gulf of Mexico, red snapper are among the most common. Found in abundance around the northern portion of the gulf, and less so around the tip of Florida, the red snapper is easily identifiable by its red hue. These fish also have red eyes and their anal fin is more pointed in shape, versus the round fin shape found on many other fish species, according to Rodnreel.com. Fishing for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico requires some simple know-how about saltwater fishing in general and the habits of this crimson fish.

  • Familiarize yourself with snapper fishing guidelines for the Gulf of Mexico before embarking on your trip. Federal guidelines begin at nine miles offshore from Texas and Florida, and three miles offshore for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi; these guidelines extend out 200 miles into the Gulf of Mexico in what's known as the Exclusive Economic Zone. Federal guidelines say that fish must be 16 inches long with a two fish per person per day limit. The federal season is generally from June 1 through September 30. However, because of overfishing in the red snapper population, the 2010 season was shortened to June and July. Florida, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi follow federal season guidelines for state-controlled portions of the gulf. In terms of bag limits and fish size, each state wildlife commission has its own guidelines with which you should become familiar before your fishing trip.

  • Assemble your bait, tackle and additional materials. In addition to some of the general equipment needed for any fishing jaunt, such as a net, several sizes of rods and reels, a cooler with ice and a bucket, there are some specialty items that come in handy for snapper fishing. Since snapper in the Gulf of Mexico can grow to massive proportions, it isn't recommended to use regular shrimp for bait. According to the Thejump.net, optimal bait options include croakers and white trout. Use a minimum 10-pound test on your reel to ensure your line can withstand the weight of the fish.

  • Determine your fishing location. Red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico tend to congregate in deeper waters in the northern portion of the gulf, generally between 50 and 300 feet deep. These fish generally cannot be caught via shore fishing or in shallow waters, with the exception of cooler months, when the fish swim further in from the colder deep ocean waters. Younger fish can also be caught in shallow waters; however, they aren't likely to meet size guidelines. Small to medium-sized snapper tend to congregate around obstructions, like reefs, wreckage, platforms and even large rocks. The larger fish in this species, however, are found most often around spans of open seafloor. Plan to boat out a fair amount of distance to access red snapper during the fishing season. You may need to drop your line a few times to find a sweet spot.

  • Chum up the water. Once you've caught a fish or two, or if your fish finder determines you are over a group of snapper, spur them into a feeding frenzy by adding chum to the water. This is actually one of the best ways to catch large snapper. You can use chum in a chum bag hanging over the boat or by dropping it into the water. However, be aware that this can also attract other large fish species and sharks.

  • Cast out. Once you've determined you are in an area with snapper, cast out. Don't drop your line too far down, as you may miss the fish. Experiment with different weights, depending on the depth of the water in which you are fishing. Don't use a 15-pound weight when a 10-pounder will do. Bait your hook properly, ensuring that you have the fish securely on the line. The last thing you want is for the snapper to easily eat the fish off the line before you have a chance to hook him.

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  • Photo Credit red snappers image by Amjad Shihab from Fotolia.com
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