Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle
Capt. Alex Crawford
August 2, 2006
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report
SHY SUMMER SNAPPERS—SCALE DOWN TO SCORE
By August red snappers have seen lots of different baits on the wrecks and reefs of the NW Florida Panhandle. Success may depend on the smart angler being aware of this and being willing to change bait offerings. If you can throw a cast net, consider finding a school of finger mullet and load the live bait well. Snappers will eat a live mullet in a New York heart beat. Another “secret weapon” snapper bait is live shrimp. Most offshore anglers normally don’t buy shrimp for offshore bottom species. They are not cheap and small trash fish tend to steal them. But red snappers love shrimp and this live bait will induce a bite when nothing else will. Hook them through the tail and then rotate the hook and bury the point back into the body of the shrimp.
Snappers are smart, expert bait stealers. They possess the perfect tools to steal your bait, a set of large, super-sharp frontal incisors. They are not referred to as snappers without good reason. Since the average summer red snapper is 16 to 20 inches and about four pounds, it makes sense to use smaller hooks, because their mouths are small in comparison to other reef species like grouper. Consider rigging 4/0 to 6/0 live bait hooks to increase your hookup ratio. If you catch one in every three snapper bites, you are doing a good job. They are fast and smart feeders during the end of summer.
Another characteristic of snappers is they are extremely leader shy at times. Small diameter fluorcarbon leaders in the 16 to 20 pound range will put more fish in the box. It is not necessary to use 4/0 or 6/0 class reels with heavy 60 pound test line. Twenty pound class tackle is appropriate most of the time. Of course, when you hook up that 20 pound sow, you will wish you had a broom stick rod and giant reel, but fishing all day with heavy gear will wear down the strongest fisherman.
For kids and women we sometimes go down to light weight twelve pound outfits. It is certainly a greater sporting challenge than heavy gear. And many folks these days are in a catch and release mode anyway. Catching red snappers on bass tackle is loads of fun. They pull about twice as hard as largemouth bass while digging to the bottom. Sometimes the sporting challenge is more memorable than the number of bags of fillets for the hot oil.
Another fun approach for summer snappers is trying artificial lures. Small jigs will produce a nice catch of snappers. The best colors seem to be chartreuse and white. Any lure that emulates a small crab is an excellent lure, especially over coral reefs where juvenile blue crabs are the primary forage. Don’t be surprised to hook up a big gag grouper on artificials. They love jigs and will eat large plugs, trolled on downriggers over reefs.
With ambient air temperatures approaching triple digits, serious consideration must be given to heat safety. Spending a day on the Gulf in the boiling Florida summer sun is tough. It goes without saying that sun block, a good hat and lots of water are just basic precautions. Staying hydrated is a vital part of sun safety. Heat stroke or heat exhaustion will put you down. Carry some extra frozen gallon water jugs. Dump them over your head periodically and put a cold cotton towel over the back of your neck. It is really refreshing and will fight the effects of the sun. Get under the bimini top or T top out of the direct sun and sit down and relax. There is no law against taking periodic fishing breaks. Drink a bottle of water and relax.
Be sun smart, try light tackle and have fun.
Till next tide, tight lines and solid hook ups,
Captain Alex Crawford
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