The highly politicized federal red snapper season is finally about to kick off for local anglers, going from June 1-10. Over that period, countless boats will be headed far offshore to depths greater than 100 feet, where the concentration of red snapper resides.
Making deep runs means anglers will spend hours preparing for trips. This includes checking to be sure boats are in running order, tackle is up to par, ice chests are full and there is enough gas in the boat to get out and back. When it all comes together, it's an amazing experience and one I can't wait to partake in, despite the brevity of the season.
While we west-central anglers need everything to go right to get to the red snapper grounds, anglers like Louis Anderson have been catching red snapper in a kayak.
Anderson lives in Pensacola, home to perhaps the best red snapper fishing in the world. When the season opened on May 23rd for state waters, he didn't need to travel far to catch his limit of red snapper.
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"Weather and work have kept me from getting offshore, and I've had to stay in the bay," Anderson said. "But I must say, Pensacola Bay is producing some great snapper fishing. You can be on the water and off with a red snapper limit (two fish) in as little as an hour."
For panhandle fishermen, red snapper are known to be almost more of a nuisance than anything. Anglers have complained about having a hard time catching anything other than red snapper, as they take over reefs, wrecks and more recently the bay as Anderson describes.
"Our inshore slams should now include snapper for they have taken residence is as little as 20 feet, which puts them pretty much living with our redfish, specks and flounder. You can chum up the water with menhaden and pick out the ones you want."
That beats spending hundreds of dollars on expenses per angler, and Anderson has been able to land fish up to 20 pounds from his kayak since the season opened. At times, he has even landed them while fishing from shore, a far difference from our fishery.
The week ahead and subsequent forecast looks about as good as possible. Light winds in the morning with a typical afternoon sea breeze and storm mean heading out early will be best. That should allow anglers to get to where they want to go with little worry. I'll be heading to depths between 120 and 150 feet, fishing live bottom and rock piles. With little pressure over the past year, I expect the delicious red snapper to be larger than recent years in the same depths and same spots.
We'll be armed with sardines, live pinfish and other baits. Anything less than a limit of red snapper in a few spots would be an extreme shock. When the red snapper fishing is complete, we'll attempt to target red grouper, mangrove and yellowtail snapper. With a little luck ,a few mahi, tuna and other pelagic species will show up.
Look for a full report on the state of the red snapper fishery next week as anglers get the opportunity to finally bring a few home.