Almost Any Depth Will Do

Red snapper inhabit the Gulf waters over natural or artificial bottom in as shallow as 55 feet, and there are some deep holes in Pensacola Bay where there are junk bottom and wreck areas that have some big red snapper on them, so they can actually be fished inside. But for the most part, anglers are targeting them anywhere from 55 feet of water on out to 250 or even 300 feet of water. The prime depths for red snapper are 90 to 150 feet of water.

The standard snapper rig is a slip sinker rig with eight feet of 40- to 60-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader and a 6/0 non-offset VMC circle hook (the use of non-offset circle hooks when targeting red snapper is mandatory in Gulf waters). For baits, a live cigar minnow or pinfish or a dead cigar minnow are pretty hard to beat. On the shallower bottom, say 55 feet, I like to pull up to the area and chum it by busting up cigar minnows into pieces, and tossing them in.

A lot of times the red snapper will chum up to the surface, and you can then freeline live baits or chunks back to them with great success.

These fish also respond well to jigs. Everything from a white 1-ounce Hook Up jig fished naked or with a strip of bonito belly or a Williamson Speed jig will work. I like to fish these lures with 6000 size reels, 30-pound Sufix braided line and the 40- to 60-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader.

For fishing deeper water, you’ll want to go to a conventional reel with a high-speed retrieve, and the same 30-pound braided line and 60-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader. The depth of the water and speed of the current will determine how heavy of a sinker you need that day to reach bottom.

One weird thing I’ve noticed about red snapper is that the largest fish are often higher in the water column than the rest of the school. The standard technique for bottom dropping is to let the line out until the weight hits bottom, then give it 10 to 12 turns of the reel handle to get it above the structure, but a lot of times the largest fish come halfway to the surface or more.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,
Captain Rick Murphy