News Columns & Blogs

As season near, red snapper begin to take over

In the movie “UHF” with Weird Al Yankovic — truly one of the corniest movies to find its way to a Blockbuster — a woman, Phyllis Weaver, on the UHF game show “Wheel of Fish” spins and wins, of all things, a red snapper.

The game show host, some sort of Kung Fu master named Kuni, gives the woman the option of keeping the red snapper (“Mmm, very tasty,” he says) or going for what’s in “the box.”

Weaver chooses the box.

“Let’s see what’s in the box,” Kuni says. An assistant picks up the box. “Nothing!” Kuni shouts. “Absolutely nothing! Stupid! You’re so stupid!”

For some reason, this is one of my fondest memories of the American red snapper, besides the ones I’ve caught recently. That scene was a rib-jiggler when I was about 8. Of course, when it comes to humor, not much has changed.

What isn’t so funny is the way the American red snapper apparently are taking over offshore. June1, when American red snapper is back in season until Aug. 15 with a daily bag limit of two per angler, couldn’t come soon enough. The minimum size is 16 inches in total length.

Many anglers have reported that American red snapper are loaded up over hard-bottom areas past 100 feet. In fact, Capt. Hank Williams of Wet Willy Charters said American red snapper, a fish that tends to congregate in hefty packs near the Gulf bottom, are gobbling up bait supplies and pushing species such as mangrove snapper away.

“They’re like locusts of the sea,” Williams said, “they eat everything in sight.”

Williams said he’s not catching mangrove snapper in these areas anymore.

“The only time I’m catching mangrove snapper,” he said, “is in shallow water areas where red snapper don’t travel.”

Williams fears that the decreased regulations on American red snapper will negatively affect the bait supply for other bottom-feeding species such as grouper.

Until then, anglers can pound the red snapper.

Find a hard-bottom area past 100 feet and look on your depth finder for a group of red snapper that appears as a pyramid showing 20-30 feet off the bottom.

Red snapper don’t just eat live bait. They love anything smelly, such as cut bonito or sardines. Stick a bait on at least a No. 7 circle hook and start off with a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader, increasing your leader size as needed to 80 pounds.

“Normally, you won’t even get your bait all the way to the bottom,” Williams said.

Williams added that when his anglers use a glow bead, especially in green, they out-fish anglers without a glow bead four to one.

Glow beads act as a visual attractant to red snapper.

Not that you’ll necessarily need one to catch your two-fish limit.

“Some of these people, these scientists who makes rules,” Williams said, “they’re so smart they have no common sense.”

Nick Walter, outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.