Private reefs and 300-mile gas tank ranges are nice, but in reality the average boat owner lacks both of these things. This isn’t a reason to believe that big, 20-lb snapper are out of your reach. With the season extended into the weekend in federal waters, you don’t have to venture far to find numerous snapper. The trick is avoiding the barely-legal bait thieves.
In our 22-foot Cayman Robalo, built for trout fishing and near-shore natural gas platforms, we often come across hoards of red snapper on public reefs and rigs. On calm days, we take advantage and venture further offshore. While many of the near fishing spots are crowded with anchored boats, it’s not uncommon to find many anglers reeling undersized snapper drop after drop. Einstein put it best by defining “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
If you spend the day anchored in the high heat and chopping cigar minnows and inky squid, this can be a wasted effort. Small snapper are rampant, especially with the current booming numbers. You can easily conclude after hours of fishing, that the big snapper have been fished out. But this assumption is far off from the truth.
The bigger fish want more choice bait. Live bait is the key. We never leave the dock without croakers or pinfish. Ideally, and somewhat surprisingly, white trout and bull minnows make incredible baits for the lunker snapper. Bigger bait. Bigger fish. More often than not we catch many larger fish than our dead bait comrades on the water. With these squirming baits on the end of the line, there is hardly ever any need for a measuring tape.
The second trick involves anchoring. Never limit yourself to the anchor if you can help it. Drifting covers more ground and allows you to hit a reef or wreck at the front, back, and all sides. This allows you to find where the fish are holding. From past experience, the bigger snapper tend to be up-current of structure and higher in the water column. Letting the weight drag the bottom or sitting in one anchored position limits the opportunity to locate the monsters.
While these seem like simple details, they go a long way in filling the ice chest with a limit and keeping the measuring stick unscathed. Avoiding the smaller snapper also helps prevent damaging the future generations of fish. As an added bonus, you’ll even find that snapper caught with this method are the same size brought in by many boats returning from 30 miles out. Invest a little more in better bait and your smaller vessel can match the catch of the fishermen spending hundreds on gas. So, next time you plan your trip to bring home taco meat, remember the live well and forget the anchor.
Need a fish taco recipe? Check out our previous post and it will change your life.