Red snapper, a game fish that lives in the western Atlantic, is a popular catch in Pensacola, Florida. Red snapper fishing is so popular and abundant in Pensacola that the city is often called the red snapper capital of the world. Red snapper live off the coasts between Massachusetts and Brazil and are most abundant in the center of that range, near Florida and the Bahamas. Adult red snapper, targets for anglers, live in mid-to-deep water over rocky surfaces that hold cooler water temperatures. Florida's state record red snapper was 46 lb. 8 oz., caught near Destin.
Fish Information and Identification
Red snapper get their name from their red or pink body and fins, as well as their red eyes. Red snapper, like most fish in the snapper family, have tightly packed teeth along their jaws but also possess sharp, canine teeth used to catch and chew prey. Most red snapper average roughly 25 inches in length and can weigh up to 20 lbs. Some red snapper have a lifespan of up to 50 years. Adult red snapper eat squid, small octopus and shrimp -- these make for great bait choices when fishing.
Selecting a Fishing Location
Red snapper spawn annually off Florida's coast and in the Gulf of Mexico between June and September, in sandy areas with water 60 to 120 feet deep. Fishing areas with these qualities during August and September give anglers a chance to catch active fish. If you plan on keeping your catch, make sure they are mature adults and over 20 inches long, the minimum size for red snapper catch in Florida. Off the spawn, anglers will find large snapper in Pensacola's cooler and deeper coastal waters that are rocky.
Selecting Bait and Tackle
Red snapper in Pensacola are most often caught using ladyfish or live squid. Live squid use their natural movements to attract fish, so jigging or trawling is not necessary. Commercial anglers use large, longline reels that maximize catch rates, and recreational sport anglers often opt for a small, hand-cast line or trawling line pulled behind a moving boat. Heavy-test line and sinkers are effective in fishing deep waters, and lighter-test line is effective in shallower waters.
Conservation, Size Limits and Harvest Season
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has listed red snapper as an overfished species, with overfishing still occurring. Limits have been placed on commercial and recreational anglers in order to protect the species and attempt to revive its population numbers. Recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico are required to take red snapper with body lengths of at least 13 inches and are allowed two red snapper per day. Red snapper open harvest season runs from early June to mid-July.
Fishing License Information
To fish the saltwater of Florida, anglers must buy a fishing license. Licenses are required for both residents and nonresidents, ages 16 to 65, who plan to fish Florida's coastal waters. At the time of publication, a one-year shoreline license is free, while a one-year general license -- which covers both shoreline and watercraft fishing -- costs $17. A five-year saltwater license also is offered for $79, and a one-year freshwater and saltwater combination license costs about $33.
- Florida Museum of Natural History; University of Florida -- Red Snapper; Cathleen Bester
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: National Marine Fisheries Service: FishWatch -- Red Snapper
- Ultimate-Fishing-Guide: Red Snapper Fishing the Top Bottom-Fishing Target
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Gulf Red Snapper
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Florida Saltwater Fishing Regluations: Licenses and Permits
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Florida Saltwater Fishing Regluations: Cost for Licenses
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