Act now to catch big snapper

Published 7:48 pm Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Red snapper season in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico closes in a couple of weeks and according to reports I have been getting from numerous anglers, there are plenty of big fish for the taking.

And there are opportunities waiting even if you don’t own a boat.

Yes, owning a big offshore boat would be a great advantage, but the fact is there are huge snapper caught every year right off of party boats. Charters from Port Aransas and Galveston routinely bring in behemoth snapper. I am living proof. On two trips fishing Galveston’s New Buccaneer, I caught an 18- and a 15-pound snapper.

For party boat fishermen, the key is to fish with large baits. Most boat operators provide clients with squid for bait, which is fine, but an angler would do better to bring his or her own bait. Every time I fish on party boat, my father and I go out and catch a bunch of croaker, grunt, whiting, and any other kind of saltwater panfish we can get a net around. While on party boats, we use whole fish. This requires patience, but it can pay off.

Anglers should not expect to catch as many fish as the people around them fishing with squid. Whole fish bait does not draw many strikes from spadefish, hardheads, and triggerfish. It does draw the attention of big sow snapper.

Anglers with their own boats should concentrate on areas with little fishing pressure. These spots usually hold the largest red snapper, simply because no one has been fishing them. Look for small reefs, rocks, and especially out-of-the-way wrecks to harbor the greatest numbers of big snapper.

By “out-of-the-way” I do not necessarily mean 80 miles offshore. It could simply mean off the beaten path. A prime example is a man I know who catches huge red snapper off Sabine Pass every year.

He emails to me pictures of 20-pound-plus snapper several times a year. When I asked him where he was catching them, he said, “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”

Finally, he showed me on a map where he was fishing the remnants of a small boat wreck only 14 miles offshore. Most anglers seeking snapper, myself included, pass this area up in search of presumably redder pastures.