The Prized Red Snapper

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

Although fishing for red snapper is closely regulated to protect this important fishery, it's a popular catch for both new and experienced anglers.

Found off the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeastern Altantic coast, the red snapper is highly prized for its delicious, mild flesh. These fish are so popular, and so prone to being overfished, that they are one of the most regulated fisheries in the state of Florida. Recreational fishing for red snapper has increased dramatically in the last 10 years or so, though size limits and other restrictions seem to have effectively protected the population from both commercial and recreational overfishing.

Federal fishing regulations have made snapper fishing somewhat restrictive, though local anglers and fishing guides believe that red snapper populations can be effectively managed with bag limits. It’s important to know current restrictions and rules before fishing for this species.

Brilliantly colored, these fish are usually a medium to dark pinkish red with a white underbelly. Easily caught on live or cut bait, snapper can be tricky to hook because they tend to nibble the line rather than definitively strike the bait. A little experience will teach the angler how to know when a snapper is trying the line.

The Florida record for red snapper is 46 pounds – though most fish are around 12-20 pounds. Commercial fishing seems to have pushed populations offshore, so though red snapper can be caught inshore, most fish are found at depths of 250 feet or more. While offshore fishing for snapper requires a heavy test line and good equipment, snapper are not picky eaters – they’ll bite on almost anything including shrimp, pinfish and chunks of cut bait.

Navigating (and respecting) the rules that abound for this species is made entirely worth it by a good catch: This versatile, attractive fish puts up a fair fight and is a good prize for beginning and novice anglers alike.

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