By Jenna Taylor
Photos by Hunter Forbes
Destin and the Gulf of Mexico offer an abundance of red snapper. They are one of the most sought after fish for anglers along the Panhandle, as well as for summer tourists. Red snapper are fun to catch, great to eat and can be targeted throughout the busy summer months. You’re allowed two per person at minimum of 16 inches.
To get the inside scoop, we interviewed a few charter boat companies and even fished with one to see how the snapper fishing has been thus far. We went out with Captain Chris Kirby and Shelby Kirby of the Backlash (Destin Offshore Charters), where they run a private charter boat out of the Destin Harbor.
Since June 1, they have been booked up with bottom fishing trips, specifically catching red snapper, grouper, vermillion snappers and more. They offer half-day, full-day and overnight trips. So far, they say the snapper fishing has been on fire (and they even have pictures to prove it). Our trip definitely did not disappoint. We couldn’t drop our bait down quick enough. We were out 35 to 40 miles, dropping in about 200 feet of water.
Captain Clint Hood of Gulf Coast Inshore Charters gave us a bit of a different perspective. Hood went out in state waters, only a couple miles out, and had a very successful few hours. Hood and his girls managed to catch a limit of red snapper last weekend.
Live cigar minnows are the bait of choice for red snapper amongst most anglers. These can be caught in front of the pass in the early mornings on sabiki rigs, or purchased from the bait boats.
Once you have your bait, you have to decide where to go fish. FishingDestinGuide.com is a great website that lists all the public spots in the area.
General rule of thumb with these public spots is, the closer to the pass, the more overfished they are. Some of the far runs may be more rewarding. After you arrive at your spot, you will want to use a circle hook ranging from a 6/0 to 8/0 on a 30-60-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 6-12 ounce Carolina rigged slip lead. The later the season gets, the smaller in leader size and hook size you will want to go to be able to still get the bites.
See below for state and federal regulations and most importantly, have fun.
Private Recreational Anglers – June 1-3.
Federally Permitted For-Hire Vessels – June 1-July 19.
The FWC approved a 78-day recreational season in Gulf-state waters at the April commission meeting. Gulf state waters are from shore to nine nautical miles out.
Open Saturdays and Sundays in May starting the first Saturday in May.
Open daily starting the Saturday before Memorial Day through Sunday following Independence Day.
Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October, plus Labor Day.