by Captain Tim “SGT” Peterson
Red snapper are found in extremely high numbers this time of year. Summer fishing season is in full swing! Tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo, barracuda, king mackerel, cobia, and tarpon are all here and ready to eat.
An angler’s best bet offshore in June is to catch red snapper 5-15 miles offshore. Smaller keeper size snapper can be caught in state water and are plentiful until the mid to end of the month when the waters start to get too warm for them to feed heavily during the day. But the big boys are 12-30 miles out in 85-200 ft of water. Look for hard bottom on your sonar, a wreck, or a tower. The snapper may not be right over it, but I promise they are close. They like to move around an area a bit so anchoring is not always needed unless the wind is blowing like crazy or you’re fighting super-fast current. They may even be biting on the surface of the water. You can catch them on almost anything when they are fired up, but sometimes, they are hook shy. When the bite is slow, just keep lowering the size of your hook and leader.
For natural bait, pinfish, and squirrel fish are everyone’s favorite. Big, large, frozen squid is my favorite big red snapper bait. I will sometimes put out two on the same hook. If the fish are eating your bait before it gets to the bottom, try a small bit of squid for scent with a large frozen fish. Or just go big with a huge squid and a huge frozen fish. I have caught monsters this way. An old timer told me about this, and called it the smorgasbord. If the fish is frozen, the little fish can’t peck away at it all by the time it hits the bottom. They eat the squid on the way down, causing the larger fish to become interested. When the large frozen fish hit the bottom, the large ones hammer it because of the social proof of the little ones feeding on it. Cut frozen cigar minnows, northern mackeral, Spanish sardines and fresh off the boat shrimp. You can chum up the red snapper and get them to hit almost anything that flashes.
For artificial options, I prefer Williamson vertical speed and flutter jigs, diamond hammered silver jigs, old fashion white lead head 5 oz jig with a large white rubber grub tipped with fish bites.
For light tackle rods, my favorite is 4500 Spinfisher VI, Ugly Stick Tiger Elite medium heavy jigging rod, rigged Carolina style knocker weight with 30-40 lb test Kastking braid, plastic bead to protect the knot 3-4 oz lead weight, 40 lbs swivel, and 4-8 ft 40-80lb fluorocarbon test Seegear pink leader, and a 1/0 or 2/0 Owner circle hook. If you ask around, you will hear a wide range of what people like to use. When you get offshore on large artificial reefs, I would bump it up to a 6000 series spinning reel and 50 – 80lb test or you may lose nice fish if you’re not careful.
Ultra-light Flatline (fishing on the surface or just below it), use 20-25lbs test Hi Seas Camo monofilament, 4-8 ft 30lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 -2/0 owner circle hook and 40lb swivel. For this, use an 8500 series reel as you will hook into some larger fish that you will need the line capacity for.
Light tackle snapper fishing braid is used for three reasons: One, so you can keep more line on your real. Two, so there is less friction on the main part of the line for very long runs and fighting the fish back to the boat. Three, so when you get an inexperienced person trying to reel one in, they don’t twist up the monofilament very badly by reeling when the fish is taking out line. When you twist mono, it stretches more and can break more easily. It is also great when dropping in deeper water with fast current. Keep in mind if the goliaths and sharks are around this may not be the most effective way to fish that day.
A reel with a high retrieve ratio, and a very smooth durable drag is very important so you can get the slack out of the line and get the fish past the monsters below. This is a scenario where you must have a high quality reel. Starting at Penn Battle 2 and up. The others simply are not the right tool for the job. I find the best value to be the Spinfisher line. My favorite is the Battle 3 Slammers.
Until next month, practice your Fish Jitsu.
Captain Tim Peterson
Captain ‘SGT’ Peterson’s - “More than just fishing”