If you're like many traveling anglers, and planning your summer vacation around snapper season, you just might come a little early this year.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may open up fishing on May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day, and keep the season open through July 14, in the state waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The change, if approved at the commission’s April meeting, will give anglers a chance to catch these prized sportfish during the holiday weekend. The Florida Panhandle towns of Pensacola, Panama City Beach and Destin are well known for five star snapper fishing.
American reds can be found over rocky bottom or structures such as wrecks and artificial reefs, much like other sought-after bottom dwellers such as red and gag groupers. But locating large schools of red snapper is only half the battle.
These fish are notorious nibblers and expert bait stealers. While red snapper will eat just about anything, squid and dead fish, particularly Spanish sardines, are the bait of choice.
Fishing in deep water, especially for sneaky fish like snapper, is more art than science. Anglers develop what could be called a “sixth sense” that lets them know a bite is coming before it happens.
While the whole Gulf Coast has good snapper fishing, this offshore species is more common in the waters off the Panhandle than in the central or southern Gulf of Mexico. Adults can live 20 years and weigh more than 35 pounds.
If approved, Florida’s state season will be 52 days long. But the season in federal waters, which begin nine miles offshore, season is scheduled to be 40 days long, starting June 1 and remaining open through July 10.