Guide to Red Snapper Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Red Snapper Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Guide to Red Snapper Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico


Angling tips, the best fishing practices, and the most effective equipment for both novice and experienced anglers.

Red Snapper Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Typically Red Snapper are caught fishing in deeper waters (60-400 feet), using bait like minnows or squid, and targeting areas with structures such as reefs.

The Gulf Coast boasts several hotspots across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Popular areas include Tampa and Cedar Key in Florida, Dauphin Island in Alabama, and Galveston in Texas.

Anglers often target structures like reefs, wrecks, and oil rigs, which are abundant in these locations.

Red Snapper are predominantly caught in deeper waters ranging from 60 to 400 feet.

Watch Episode 28: Catching Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico

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Where to Catch Red Snapper?

Popular fishing locations span the Gulf Coast, including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

What’s Used to Catch Red Snapper?

Suitable rigs and lures, such as Carolina and Knocker Rigs, jigs, and soft plastics, and the need for stronger gear due to the Red Snapper’s size and fighting ability.

When to Catch Red Snapper

The Red Snapper Season typically begins in June and runs about 60 days. The bag limit for the 2024 season was 2 Red Snapper per angler with a minimum length of 18 inches. It’s important for all anglers to be sure of local rules and regulations for your specific area when catching Red Snapper in the Gulf.

About American Red Snapper

Learn about these popular fish more commonly found off shore in deeper waters. Learn tips and fishing techniques for catching Red Snapper.

Saltwater Fishing: About Red Snapper | Common Traits and Behavior of the Mighty American Red Snapper
Saltwater Fishing: About Red Snapper | Common Traits and Behavior of the Mighty American Red Snapper

American Red Snapper

The Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, a native to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast, is one of the most iconic fish in these waters.

Red Snapper have a lifespan that can exceed 50 years, hold an impressive potential for size, capable of attaining lengths up to 3 feet and tipping the scales at a substantial 35 pounds or more.

*However, the typical catch for an angler usually ranges between 1-2 feet in and weight under 10lbs.

Additional names for Red Snapper:

The American red snapper, also known as the AR snapper, is a species that goes by various names across different regions. In addition to AR snapper, it is sometimes referred to as Gulf red snapper, Mexican snapper, or simply Red Snapper.

Tips for Catching Red Snapper in the Gulf:

Find the Right Depth:

Red Snapper often inhabit deeper waters, so focus your efforts in areas that are 60 to 400 feet deep.

Choose Suitable Bait:

Live bait like minnows or cut bait such as squid can be very effective. Experiment with different types to see what works best in your area.

Use Strong Gear:

Opt for a medium-heavy rod and a durable line, as Red Snappers can be quite large and put up a strong fight.

Chumming Technique:

Chumming can help attract Red Snapper. Use small pieces of bait to create a chum line. If bottom fishing, also use a flatline.

Watch Video: Red Snapper Fishing in the Gulf

EP33: Bottom Fishing Red Snapper

Knocker Rig Catching Red Snapper

Several prime locations in the Gulf of Mexico where you can enjoy fishing for red snapper are:

Florida: Tampa, Cedar Key, Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola
St. Petersburg, FL: Captain Martin: Inverted Fishing
Alabama: Dauphin Island
Mississippi: Biloxi
Louisiana: Venice, Grand Isle
Texas: South Padre Island, Galveston, Port Aransas

Other locations:

There are abundant Red Snapper populations in the reefs situated off the coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Big Gulf of Mexico American Red Snapper

Where Can I Catch Red Snapper?

They tend to be found near various structures such as natural or artificial reefs, rocky bottoms, oil platforms, and underwater ridges.

Improving Your Chances of Catching Red Snapper

To increase your chances of a catching Gulf Red Snapper or at least make the effort easier to catch Red Snapper, often the most effective techniques involve drifting and bottom fishing with live bait in the vicinity of wrecks and reefs.

Captain Randall Holds Fish Bottom Fishing the Gulf of Mexico American Red Snapper

Knocker Rig – Saltwater Bottom Fishing

A simple yet effective method for catching a variety of reef fish is the knocker rig.

Timing and Red Snapper

Timing can be important when fishing for red snapper. The peak season for catching these fish is typically the warmer months from May through August, providing ample opportunities for anglers to get out on the water.

Be aware of the regulations regarding red snapper fishing. As of 2022, recreational anglers are allowed to keep up to two red snapper per person per day, provided they measure over 16 inches in length.

Once the recreational quota is met, the fishing season for red snapper will come to an end.

Catching Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico Bottom Fishing

What are the best artificial baits for Red Snapper?

When targeting red snapper, some of the best artificial lures to consider are jigs, soft plastics, and deep-diving crankbaits.

Jigs, such as bucktail jigs or vertical jigs, can effectively imitate the movement of prey fish and are great for attracting the attention of red snapper on the prowl.

Soft plastics, like shrimp or fish-shaped baits, offer a lifelike appearance and enticing action, often proving irresistible to these bottom-dwelling predators.

Deep-diving crankbaits are excellent for covering a variety of depths and can mimic wounded baitfish, triggering aggressive strikes from hungry red snapper.

Ultimately, the choice of lure should consider factors such as location, water depth, current, and the specific behavior of red snapper in the targeted area.

How Deep to Fish for Red Snapper?

To catch red snapper, it’s helps to know the right water depth. These fish are typically found in offshore environments, at depths of 30 to 200 feet. Red Snapper tend to gather around underwater structures like reefs, wrecks, and rocks for shelter and food.

As anglers we often rely on depth finders and sonar to locate these underwater structures to increase our chances of getting on the fish and hooking up.

Bottom Fishing Red Snapper in the Gulf

Common Red Snapper Fishing Rigs:

Carolina Rig (or Slip Sinker Rig):

This is a popular choice for red snapper. The main feature is a weight (or sinker) that slides directly on the main line, followed by a swivel that prevents the weight from sliding down to the bait.

A leader line attached to the other end of the swivel presents the baited hook. This setup allows the bait to move naturally in the current.

Chicken Rig (or Multiple Hook Rig):

This rig involves several hooks spaced out along the leader.

It’s great for catching multiple fish at once or if you’re not sure about the exact depth at which the snapper are feeding.

By presenting baits at different depths, you increase your chances of getting a bite.

Carolina Rigs for Catching Red Snapper

Knocker Rig:

Similar to the Carolina rig, the knocker rig has the weight slide directly on the leader line, so it rests right above the hook.

When a fish bites, you can feel the strike immediately, making it easier to set the hook. It’s particularly useful in areas with a lot of bottom structure.

Vertical Jig:

While not a traditional bait rig, vertical jigs can be effective for snapper, especially when they’re in deeper waters.

The jig’s motion imitates an injured baitfish, which can attract red snapper’s attention.

Choosing the Right Rig for Snapper:

The ideal rig for your fishing trip will depend on various factors such as the depth you’re fishing, the current, the structure of the seabed, and personal preference. As you gain experience, you’ll develop a sense of which rig to use under which circumstances.

Florida Reef Fishing for Red Snapper

Catching Red Snapper Rod & Reel Setup

When targeting large, trophy-sized Red Snapper, ensure your gear can handle these formidable fighters.

Heavy-duty spinning or conventional reels in the 5000-6000 series, paired with medium-heavy rods, are ideal. High-quality braided line of 50-80 pound test is recommended, with fluorocarbon leaders of similar strength.

Current Red Snapper Record Weight

They typically inhabit reef environments and can grow up to 40 inches and weigh as much as 50 pounds.

The current record weight for Red Snapper is 50 lbs 4 oz, a feat achieved in the waters off Louisiana in 1966.

Drawn to their aggressive nature and the challenge they present, making the pursuit by anglers of the American Red Snapper a thrilling challenge.

General Size & Weight of Red Snapper

Age (Years)Size (Length)Weight (Approximate)
16 – 8 inches0.5 – 1 lb
210 – 12 inches1 – 2 lbs
313 – 16 inches2 – 4 lbs
417 – 20 inches4 – 6 lbs
521 – 24 inches6 – 8 lbs
625 – 28 inches8 – 10 lbs
729 – 32 inches10 – 14 lbs
833 – 36 inches14 – 18 lbs
937 – 40 inches18 – 22 lbs
10+40+ inches22+ lbs

Can Red Snapper be caught along the coast?

Red snapper are commonly found in deeper offshore waters, typically inhabiting rocky reefs, ledges, and structures that provide them with shelter and feeding opportunities. While they are more commonly associated with offshore environments, juvenile red snapper can occasionally be found closer to shore, especially in areas with abundant seagrass beds, mangroves, or nearshore reefs.

However, as they grow and mature, they tend to move to deeper waters for breeding and feeding. So, while it’s possible to encounter Red Snapper closer to shore, their primary habitat remains the offshore areas with suitable underwater structures that support their behavior and survival.

Bottom Fishing Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico

Catching Red Snapper Bottom Fishing Gulf of Mexico

Ideal Conditions for Trophy Red Snapper Fishing

Catching Big Red Snapper can really be dependent on the conditions. Generally, the best fishing is in the warmer months, from April to October, although this can vary depending on your location.

Snapper prefer structure, so target areas near reefs, shipwrecks, or oil platforms for the best results.

Best times to Catch Red Snapper*

Structure TypeBest SeasonsRecommended Bait
ReefsSpring to FallLive or cut squid, shrimp
WrecksYear-roundLive baitfish, cut mullet
Oil RigsYear-roundLive or cut bait, jigs
LedgesSpring to FallLive or cut bait, artificial lures
Artificial ReefsYear-roundLive or cut bait, jigs, soft plastics

Red Snapper Season in Florida

During this limited season, anglers eagerly head to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters off Florida’s coast to target this prized fish.

*Respect fishing regulations for red snapper in the Gulf. They have strict seasons and heavy protections. Violations harm the ecosystem and result in penalties. Stay informed, follow size limits, and practice catch-and-release. Preserve the red snapper population.

Red Snapper Locations in the Gulf of Mexico

Holding Fish Caught in the Gulf of Mexico

Where are Red Snapper caught:

Red snapper are commonly found near various structures in the Gulf of Mexico. They are frequently associated with natural reefs, artificial reefs, oil rigs, shipwrecks, and other underwater structures.

These locations provide shelter and attract baitfish, making them ideal habitats for red snapper. Some well-known areas for red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico include the Gulfstream Pipeline, Flower Garden Banks, the Texas coast, the Mississippi Sound, and the Louisiana offshore oil rigs.

Catching Red Snapper in the Gulf Fishing Charter

Popularity of Red Snapper Fishing:

The Gulf of Mexico offers a range of fishing opportunities, including deep-sea charters, nearshore trips, and even private boat fishing, which contribute to the popularity of red snapper fishing.