Catching Red Snapper 101

When it comes to deep sea fishing, few fish meet the quality of the Red snapper. From their easy-catching to their fine taste, Red snapper are one of the most heavily targeted species of fish in the sea. Fortunately, they are easy to catch once you know how. Here, we summarize all you need to know to get out and catch Red snapper, from when, where, and how to catch them.

When to Find Red Snapper

Red snapper can be found year-round, but the best season is summertime. They get more concentrated during the summer, as this is when their spawning season peaks. Summer is also when the seas are at their calmest, allowing those of us who don’t own a mini-yacht to get out far enough to catch Red snapper. All of the seasons provide great opportunities if you have the appropriate means to get out there. Red snapper have been shown to not migrate far from their established reefs and other structures once they make them their homes throughout the year, so if you can find structure in 60 to 200 feet of water, you’ll likely find plenty of snapper.

Rod and reel for catching red snapper.

Where to Catch Red Snapper

Finding Red snapper is easy – find structure in deep water, and the snapper will be there. Although juveniles live over sand or mud bottom, adult Red snapper always reside around some sort of structure. This includes natural reefs, rocks, ledges, artificial reefs, wrecks, and plenty of other manmade structures like oil platforms. The second part of the equation is the depth of these structures. Adult Red snapper live between 30 to 300 feet of water, and are very commonly found between 100 and 200 feet.

Tackle for Red Snapper

Red snapper fight very similarly to other snappers – they make one strong pull when hooked, but after that, they fight with a series of violent head shakes until you get them in. Therefore, you need some pretty hefty gear for making sure they don’t pull you into structures during that first initial pull. For the most part though, the size of the tackle you need will vary depending on the depth and current where you’re fishing. With deep, strong currents, you’ll need a heavy reel with 60-to-80 pound test line to support the weight needed to hold your bait down. When fishing shallow water with weak currents, you can easily tackle Red snapper using medium tackle supporting 20-to-30 pound test line.

Red snapper catch.

Spinning Tackle for Red Snapper

Spinning tackle is probably the most commonly used gear for catching Red snapper, because it’s easy to use and comes in sizes capable of tightening down the drag and reeling in big fish from the bottom rather quickly. These fish get big – commonly between 10 and 20 pounds – and can fight pretty strong, so you want to use either a medium or heavy spinning reel depending on if there are currents present.

Red snapper caught with spinning rod.

Conventional Tackle for Red Snapper

Conventional tackle is always a good choice for bottom-fishing, because you can pull fish away from structures more easily than the more commonly used spinning tackle. The reason for this is that the reel is positioned on top of the rod, giving you more leverage when all other things like line strength are equal. Use conventional gear when catching big fish that might pull you into structures like oil platform pilings or artificial reefs with lots of complexity to them.

Baits for Red Snapper

The natural diet of Red snapper include mainly fish, crabs, squid, and shrimp, depending on the season and what prey is available. The best baits for deep dropping include fish and squid based on their availability and readiness for the snapper to take them off a hook. The best live baits include cigar minnows, mullet, threadfin herring, large sardines, and pinfish. All of these can be either caught yourself using a Sabiki rig or cast net. They are usually readily available at your local bait shop. As for dead bait, any of the above work well, and squid also works well. These baits can be used either whole or as cut bait.

Red snapper.

Lures for Red Snapper

Most anglers think of natural baits when it comes to Red snapper, but there are some artificial lures that can catch Red snapper. These include for the most part vertical jigs and soft plastics that mimic fish. Vertical jigs are designed to be dropped straight down, and look like an injured cigar minnow or sardine on the bottom.

Red snapper caught with vertical jig.

The trick to using these jigs is to only jig them very subtly, and the hits will usually happen when the lure stands still. Soft plastics simply mimic natural baits, and can be dropped down as a natural dead bait would, and may entice the fish to bite solely on looks alone, or slightly moved like the vertical jigs for attracting more eyes.

The Online Fisherman

GHM logo