The red snapper is a species of fish with quite a high commercial importance, and evidently they’re also considered superior game fish.
There are many species of snappers, such as mutton snapper, mangrove snapper or lane snapper, which sometimes are mistaken or even sold as red snapper.
However the one and only red snapper also known as northern red snapper, is Lutjanus campechanus, and this post we’ll cover the habitat, fishing techniques, bait and tackle specific to this species.
Red Snapper Habitat and Habits
The red snapper is widespread on the southeastern coast of the Atlantic Ocean, with a higher concentration in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re typically bottom feeders, preferring bottoms with an abundance of structures, such as shipwrecks, oil rigs, natural and artificial reefs, or rocky bottoms. They can be caught at depths up to 300 ft., but normally they stick to waters between 30 – 200 ft. Red snapper travel and feed in schools, therefore if you catch one, you can surely expect others in the same place and on the same bait / tackle.
Red snapper prefer water temperatures between 60°F – 80°, They’re very responsive to various types of baits, at different depths (sometimes they fill the entire water column) especially during spring and summer, when water temperature does not exceed the 80°F degree mark. They’re usually soft biters, they tend to nibble and mouth the bait before taking it, that’s why rods with a more sensitive tip are indicated. When caught, they put quite a hard fight, typically using strong head-shaking movements, rather than long runs, or heavy drops, like giant trevally for example.
Fishing Methods For Red Snapper
Red snapper prefer the open ocean, and rather deep waters, therefore it’s less likely to catch them in the surf, or from piers. Fishing for them requires a boat, and most anglers use different methods to catch them, such as bait-casting, jigging, drifting, down-dropping or still fishing.
Best Baits For Red Snapper
Red snapper can be caught at lures, but live or fresh, cut bait is always better received. Their normal diet consists of small fish, molluscs and crustaceans. Therefore, some of the best baits to use for red snapper are cigar minnows, pinfish, sardines, eels, shrimp, crabs, squid, snails or mussels, herring or amberjack strips, etc.
Combining lures such as Bluefox Skarpsildas, Yo-Zuri Blanka or the Metallic Sardine with cut bait, can result in more bites. However, if you’re going 100% artificial, shrimp or squid imitating lures, such as Maisone Soft Shrimp, or Berkley Gulp Saltwater Squid. Also, Snapper Zappers or DOA Swimming Mullets can do the trick.
Tackle for Red Snapper
Rods. Now, depending on the fishing technique, bait used and the fish you’re targeting different rods may be required. For example, if you’re going with jigs, or soft plastics, a 7-8′ rod, medium power, medium or medium-fast action such as a Shimano Catana or Shakespeare Ugly Stik should do. On the other hand, if you’re going for heavy snappers, you might as well go for a heavier rod. But in general, a 6-10kg rated rod is a universal choice for red snapper.
Reel. A 6-10kg rod pairs well with a reel within the 4000-6000 range. Therefore, a Shimano Stradic 4-6000, a Daiwa EMP5000A, Penn Battle BTL5000 or TICA SH5000 should pair well with a stick within the range mentioned above.
Line. When fishing with lures, it’s best to opt for braided line, within 20-50lb. test range, depending on how big the snappers you’re targeting are. That’s because braided has less flexibility and you’ll have a better contact and feel of lure in deep waters. For still fishing, 40-50lb. monofilament should do just fine.
Rigs. It’s best to opt for a rig with the sinker at the end of the main line, with 1-2 hooks attached to the main line via 3-way swivels. Best choice for leaders in term of fishing line is 50lb. fluorocarbon. Considering that red snapper like their food to look as natural as possible, you may want to opt for gang hooks, especially if you’re using larger baits, such as ragworms, eels or shrimp.
Hooks. Once again, you should use hooks fitting the size of the fish you’re after. But in general, 4/0-8/0 hooks are the ones to go with. It’s best though to opt for hooks with medium size shanks. You can never go wrong with Mustad or Gamakatsu.