What's hot: Red snapper season opens Monday in the gulf and runs until Aug. 15 with a limit of 16 inches and two per person. For years, it was virtually impossible to target them in our waters because of their small numbers. The few that were caught were incidental while targeting grouper. Seasonal and bag limitations, the decline of offshore shrimping because of hurricane damage to the fleet and imports and the Gulfstream Natural Gas pipeline have combined to revitalize this almost extinct fishery.
We have caught and released red snapper in water as shallow as 60 feet since the closure last year while targeting gag grouper on ledges and rock piles. The population is scattered in these depths. To target them, it is necessary to fish deeper depths. The pipeline mitigation areas in at least 90 feet along with most ledges in adjacent areas all seem to be holding good quantities of fish.
Tip: Red snapper often can be seen on the fish finder suspended in the water column above structure. Switching to lighter sinkers (1-2 ounce) and 20-pound test tackle will give you more "hang time" as the bait is heading for the bottom. Red snapper are voracious feeders and will bite frozen sardines and squid. But live baits usually produce the larger fish. Small pinfish, live sardines, hardtails and threadfins are irresistible. A smaller jig head and nose hooking the live baits usually attracts the interest of the larger fish in the school.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.