red snapper

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Red snapper season is off with a bang (and, naturally, lousy weather).

Wind and rain slowed us all down last week. Day after day of southwest winds restricted boating last week. Several mornings we dealt with rain, plus a few dangerous thunderstorms. After this extended break in fishing, it’s going to be interesting to see how our tarpon season progresses.

Now that we’re into snook spawning season again, it’s time to see how the stock is doing. This week’s full moon will help us get an accurate handle on populations.

It’s red snapper season, so we should expect challenging weather. I know it’s illogical, but we do seem to get rough conditions when red snapper are open. It’s almost time to see more mango snapper too. I’m hoping some Spanish mackerel hang around for the summer with all these other closures. The kids are out of school, so let’s make time to share memories on our water as conditions allow.

We needed rain and we got some, but it came with more wind than I wanted to see. Our waters have been crystal clear, but that is now history. I’m not sure how much they will clear up with rainy season arriving. It will require several days for sand and silt to settle, and by then we’ll probably be seeing some dark tannins from the flowing rivers. The fish can always use a break, and when you locate action again, it should be hot as the temperatures.

By now we will know how the tarpon action was for the full moon in June, which was on the 17th. I’m predicting a hot bite, but God only knows how many silver kings we will have. The fish cleared out with the dirty water and west winds. Some will return and hang a while; others are on cruise control for other feeding grounds.

We will have fish here in our area till October at least. It can be challenging to locate activity once they disperse from the Pass, but it’s nice to have less company while we play with them. If it’s anything like normal, we should enjoy good action in the Pass for another month anyway.

It’s spawning time for snook, so they are bunching up. This is an easy time to catch them, but we do need to be careful how we handle these fish. A discarded dead fish is not a release! Keep all fish in the water for photos if possible. The more you handle fish the greater risk of serious injury or death. If you must get the trophy shot, lay out a wet towel, set your fish on it and be done ASAP. The snook now on our beaches are the mothers and fathers of your future fish.

It’s deep water fishing time, if the weather allows us safe access. Red snapper and all grouper (except Goliaths) are all open for a short window. Seasons vary for recreational and charter fishing. Rec red snapper are open till July 12. Please be careful about coming home into thunderstorms. It’s that time of year. It can be beautiful offshore, then 50-knot winds flare up at the coast. Be safe.

The bigger fish are deeper and farther from safety. Rig heavy enough to land bigger fish but light enough to get bites. Bottom fish get smarter from more fishing pressure. They also shut down entirely if you lose a couple in the rocks. Hold your rigs suspended off the bottom for larger fish. Make the big ones come up, which will give you a chance to stop them before they bury into cover. Many days the big fish are suspended anyway, especially the red snapper.

Remember we have many other smaller snapper to enjoy. Mangos are due to show up in our passes soon. Yes, they are smaller than the reds, but fun and tasty — and you’ll burn a lot less fuel. Offshore we have vermilions, yellowtails, lanes and mangos to target if bigger fish are out of reach or out of season.

Again, bigger gear gets fewer bites with snapper. We use 15- or 20-pound spinning gear with mono or braid and long fluorocarbon leaders. Keep it simple: Just a circle hook and a weight. Beads and swivels have no place here.

We usually have some Spanish mackerel hang through the summer. They are scattered and you’ll have to troll or chum to locate action. It’s worth the effort, though, because we can keep plenty for fresh fish dinners. Always be sure you ice fish in freezing brine now for best taste. Just add clean seawater to your ice. Don’t hold your hand in there unless you like frostbite.

Children are out of school, and this is the time to get them outside. Take them to the beach, or wading, or boating, or fishing. Let them learn to love our waterways so they understand why we live here. Stop to enjoy the wildlife and pretty scenery.

Size is not important as we start out fishing. Catching baitfish can keep kids smiling. They need steady action; if it slows down, move. As they begin to understand patience, then they can pursue the bigger fish. Try barracuda or jacks for action, and have your camera ready to capture their smiles — these memories are priceless.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

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