In North America, the Red Snapper can be found in the Atlantic Ocean from the Carolinas to Florida. On occasion, they’re been spotted along the coast in more northern states. Effecive fishing methods for catching Red Snapper include bottom fishing, chumming, and fly fishing using live or cut bait.
Habitat: Ocean, Coastal Waters
How to identify Red Snapper
The red snapper can be distinguished from other snappers by its pinkish or deep red coloring and distinctive red eyes. It has a pointed anal fin, and a long triangular, pointed face. Young red snappers have a dark spot on their upper back below the dorsal fin. This spot is not present in adults. Red snappers have a dorsal fin with 14 soft rays and a pointed anal fin. The first and second dorsal fins are connected.
Red snappers have enlarged canine teeth, which is why they are referred to as “snappers.” The northern red snapper has fewer scales and more soft rays than the southern red snapper.
The average red snapper is between 1-2 feet long and can weigh anywhere from 2-10 pounds. Larger specimens can reach up to 4 feet and weigh up to 50 pounds. On average, red snapper have a life span of about 20 years, but can live up to 60 years.
Where to catch Red Snapper
The Red sSnapper lives in the Gulf of Mexico and in the western Atlantic Ocean. They can be found along the eastern coast of the U.S. from the Carolinas south to Florida and west to the Gulf of Mexico. They are rarely found north of the Carolinas but have been reported as far north as Massachusetts.
Young red snappers prefer shallow waters with sandy or muddy bottoms. Adults are usually found offshore in deeper waters with rocky bottoms and structure between 50 and 500 feet. Like most species of snapper, Red Snapper will stick close to structure such as rocks, coral reefs, artificial reefs, shipwrecks, caves, and ledges.
The following are habitats where you can catch Red Snapper:
How to catch Red Snapper
The best techniques for catching red snapper are drifting and bottom fishing with live bait along wrecks and reefs in water that is 200-300 feet deep. The best time to catch snapper is from May through August.
Red snappers generally settle near the bottom, so you must use a rig setup that will get your bait on the bottom. Red snapper will try to hide in and nearby structure once they are hooked, which can lead to snagged lines. They can also be caught by fly fishing and using streamers. Anglers often lure red snapper toward the surface within striking distance of their fly by chumming the water.
The following are effective fishing methods and techniques for catching Red Snapper:
Best Lures, Bait & Tackle to catch Red Snapper
Red Snapper are “gape-limited” game fish. This means Red Snapper can only eat what they can fit in their mouth. The best bait for catching red snapper are bitd size pieces of cut bait such as Mullet, Sardines, Pichards, Bonita and Eel. Red snapper will also take squid, pogies, and cigar minnows, which are more readily available to anglers.
For larger Red Snapper, live bait including Pinfish and Ballyhoo are effective. When targeting larger snappers, large live bait is ideal. Using larger bait will eliminate bites from smaller snappers and unwanted reef fish.
Rigging your bait for Red Snapper will depend on your fishing method. When trolling with live bait, pass the hook through the lips, nose and eyes. When drifting or bottom fishing, pass the hook through the eyes and then through the back.
There are several effective snapper rigs anglers can use for bait presentation. Three of the moe popular include:
- Knocker Rig – Provides a great presentation for fishing smaller red snappers. Its an ideal rig for fishing over wrecks and reefs. The design of the knocker rig prevents the snapper from retreating to the cover of structure once hooked.
- Three-way Swivel Rig – Popular bottom rig for fishing rocky bottoms and wreck where Red snappers frequent. Doesn’t snag easily and catches snappers.
- In-Line Snapper Rig – This is a “go to” rig when snapper just aren’t biting. It has a 15′-20′ leader. The extra long leader allows cut bait to float unrestricted near the bottom, or live bait to swim freely, creating a very natural presentation.
The preferred hook for catching Red Snappers is a 4/0-8/0 Circle hook. The shape of the Circle hook with a point that curves back toward the shank, allows the hook to set naturally as the snapper takes the bait and turns to swim away. Using a Circle hook allows you to place your rod in a rod holder and let the fish hook itself.
J-hooks, bait holder hooks and jigs are also good for catching snappers. Anglers have caught many a snapper using a simple 2-3oz jig with a soft plastic tail. Veritical jigs will catch snappers in shallower waters. Red Snappers will also readily take a fly or streamers if it gets within striking distance.
The following fishing lures, bait and tackle that can be used to catch Red Snapper: