Red snapper season varies by location. In Florida, the season runs from June to July, while in Alabama, the red snapper season opens in May. In Mississippi, the season typically runs from May to July. You need to know the open seasons for red snapper fishing to increase your chances of a successful catch. Make sure you obtain the necessary permits per the regulations in the specific region before fishing.
All regions have catch limits to ensure that anglers fish sustainably. You also need to use the appropriate lures and baits, whether trolling, bottom fishing, or jigging.
This article will look at the red snapper season by region and the best places to catch red snapper.
Red Snapper Season by Region
Red snappers have been overfished due to their prized value. Because of this, laws have been developed by different states across the U.S. to help grow the red snapper population back. The annual catch target determines the length of the season.
If you want to catch red snapper, there are specific dates and regulations for each region in the U.S. There are different laws for the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, which must be followed strictly. The regulations also apply to state and federal waters. Let’s take a closer look.
State vs. Federal Waters
Before we dive into the red snapper season by region, you need to know that there’s a difference between the federal and state water seasons. Every state is in charge of the first nine nautical miles of the sea in the Gulf of Mexico.
For instance, Florida State waters stretch three nautical miles into the Atlantic and nine nautical miles into the Gulf of Mexico. The area past this is considered Federal waters. This is important because the biggest fish are present in Federal waters.
Florida Red Snapper Season
There are specific guidelines for Florida Federal and State waters. Before heading out for red snapper fishing, you need to know the size limit, season length for private vessels and hire charters, the red snapper size limits, and the bag limit. The Florida red snapper season lengths vary depending on where the anglers catch the fish.
Red Snapper Season in Gulf of Mexico State Waters
If you plan to go red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico state waters, you need to know that the season opens in mid-June up until July 31st. In 2022, the season reopened again in October, starting October 8th, for three consecutive weekends. This season also reopened during the Veterans Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend.
These seasons are meant for anglers fishing using licensed for-hire charters and private anglers. Once the state reaches the quota, the season usually closes. However, the state can sometimes extend the season if the estimated quotas are not achieved.
If you are in this region, you can watch out for the 2023 dates announcement to start your fishing expedition.
Red Snapper Season in Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters
On the other hand, if you plan to fish in the federal waters, the federal red snapper season can differ from the state one or be similar. In 2022, the open season started from June 1st to August. However, the season does not always have to be the same; it can be longer than this.
These season dates apply to recreational anglers fishing using head boats and charter boats. Ensure you have a federal permit before heading to the red snapper fisheries. You should also have the right gear to make the experience much better.
Alabama Red Snapper Season
In 2022, the Alabama red snapper season started on May 27th. Anglers could fish every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Over the last few years, the season in this region has been lasting much longer. This is because it takes longer to reach the annual recreational quota. Although the 2023 season dates have not been announced, there’s a high chance they might be similar to 2022.
The red snapper quota for 2022 in Alabama was 1,122,662 pounds. The 2023 quota is 1,212,687 pounds. Therefore, if you are an angler in this area, you should be prepared with the right gear before the season opens. Additionally, you can contact the local charters to take you to the best fishing spots when the season begins.
Mississippi Red Snapper Season
The Mississippi red snapper season in 2022 ran from May 27 and closed on July 4. Anglers were allowed to fish for seven days a week. The 2023 dates could be quite similar.
The authorities will decide whether the season can get extended if the annual catch target is not achieved after the mid-season closure. This is an excellent location to catch the red snapper for about three months.
Louisiana Red Snapper Season
Like Mississippi and Alabama, the Louisiana 2022 season started on May 27th, and fishing was only allowed on weekends. Once the quota was achieved, the season was closed on September 19th. Apart from the weekends, the season also reopened on Labor Day and the Monday of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July.
In 2023, the fishing season might be the same as last year. Anglers flock to Louisiana during this period because it has some of the heaviest red snappers. Therefore, this is a good fishing spot to consider this year.
Texas Red Snapper Season
Unlike other states, the Texas red snapper season opened up a bit early in the year 2022. State waters opened on 1st January and remained open all year round. On the other hand, the federal waters season started on June 1st and ended on September 2nd due to temporary regulation.
If you are in Texas, the open season could be much longer than in other states. You can catch this tasty fish all year round if you have the right gear and find the best spots in the waters.
How to Obtain a Fishing License and Other Permits
If you plan to go red snapper fishing, you need to have the necessary information about the permits and licenses. Individual Gulf states manage state guide boats and private anglers without federal charter permits. As a private angler, you’ll need a state-issued recreational license.
On the other hand, if you use federal for-hire vessels, you’ll require a head boat or federal charter permit for reef fishing. If you are new to red snapper fishing, check the website for the state you are in to view the limitations, such as the recreational bag limit and the process of acquiring a license or permit.
Red Snapper Minimum Size Limit
In addition to permits, there are bag limits for anglers. The daily bag limit is two fish per person, and the minimum size limit of the red snapper is 16 inches in most states.
This limit mainly applies to states like Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. However, Louisiana is quite different; the bag limit is three fish per angler with a minimum length of 16 inches.
On the other hand, Texas has a higher limit of 4 fish per person and 15 inches minimum. Therefore, if you are fishing in any of these areas, it’s advisable to follow the recreational bag limit when going on a fishing trip to avoid getting into trouble with the authorities.
The size limit is in place to ensure that anglers don’t overfish the red snapper. You should follow this guideline strictly whether you are using your boat or a hire.
Red Snapper Gear Rules
Apart from the size limits, anglers need to abide by the set gear rules to fish red snapper in the Gulf and Atlantic. The set guidelines require all fishermen to adhere to specific gear rules whether they are in state or federal waters.
The required gear includes:
- Anglers must use non-stainless circle hooks
- Natural baits
- One dehooking device to remove hooks
If you are a beginner, you can confirm the details and state regulations depending on your location.
Best Places to Catch Red Snapper During the Season
If you want to catch these tasty fish species, there are some places that you must visit. Most of them are around the Gulf; therefore, it’s not difficult to catch red snapper during the open season.
Most Popular and Productive Locations for Red Snapper Fishing
Each of the Gulf states has specific locations to fish red snapper. Let’s look at each of them.
Known for its sunny days, Florida is an ideal place for red snapper fishing. There are many fishing opportunities across the state that anglers can visit to catch these species.
Here are some of the popular locations to find the snapper in Florida.
- Panama City Beach
- Fort Walton Beach
- Key West
- 30A/Santa Rosa Beach
Recreational anglers in Alabama enjoyed the open season until December 27th. You can get the best selection of fish either on Orange Beach or Gulf shores. One of the main advantages of this area is that the red snapper fish tend to grow quite big.
Just like the other states in the Gulf waters, Mississippi is a good source of red snapper. You will likely catch some big snappers if you fish in Gulfport or Biloxi.
Louisiana holds the world record for the heaviest red snapper caught at an impressive 50 pounds, 4 ounces. Therefore, it’s an ideal location if you are looking for fishing opportunities. Additionally, the state has several local charters. Venice is an excellent place to fish red snapper if you are a recreational angler.
One of the main advantages of fishing in Texas is that the regulations allow anglers to fish all year long in state waters. Therefore, Galveston is an excellent place to start if you plan to catch this species in this state. You can also go to other places like South Padre Island and Port Aransas.
How to Catch Red Snapper
To catch red snappers, you need to be skilled in identifying their habitats. Ideally, red snappers are found in deep waters and are most likely to stay in schools near shipwrecks, reefs, and oil rigs.
To increase the chances of catching tasty snapper, you need to go to the deep waters of 50 to 200 feet using your boat or by booking one of the fishing charters in different states.
Places like Destin in Florida are well known for commercial charter fishing. Therefore, this is a good place to start fishing if you want to catch the best snappers.
Because of the value of red snapper, you need to follow the state and federal law restrictions. Therefore, once you identify a fishing spot, ensure that you follow the guidelines on this species to avoid legal trouble.
Red snappers are found in warm waters worldwide, including the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, they are opportunistic feeders; therefore, they will eat different types of food, including squid, baitfish, and crustaceans.
To catch the best selection of red snapper, use baits like herring, menhaden, mullet, pilchards, and live and frozen sardines. If you are fishing around a structure, you can use cut bait.
To target red snapper effectively, you should use heavy tackle. This fish species can weigh up to 50 pounds and put up a good fight during fishing. Therefore, you need fishing gear that will be effective. Additionally, remember to use circle hooks to prevent deep hooking.
Best Time to Catch Red Snapper
Ideally, the best time to catch this fish species changes each year. However, they always come in big numbers; therefore, most anglers can get a good catch. In most locations, there are different types of fishing charters. Red snapper fishing on charter boats can sometimes last about 50 days.
Therefore, if you plan to head out in 2023, the charter boats will wait until the official season’s opening to take you to these popular fishing spots.
How Big Do Red Snappers Get?
Although the red snapper grows quite big, they are not as large as other game fish. Because of this, red snapper fishing is a common activity in Florida state and federal waters. There are several charters available when the Florida red snapper season opens to ensure recreational anglers catch the biggest ones.
On average, the red snapper grows to approximately 25 pounds. The heaviest red snapper was caught in Louisiana at 50 pounds. Therefore, you can get a big red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and South of the Atlantic as long as you know the best spots.
What to Do After Catching Red Snapper
Once you have identified the best places to catch red snapper, you need to know how to preserve them to prevent wastage. To keep the meat fresh, you should fillet or freeze the red snapper as soon as possible.
Here are some steps that anglers and charter captains follow when handling red snapper.
- Remove the red snapper from the hook
- Preserve the red snapper on ice immediately
- Once you return to shore, fillet the snapper
- Afterward, place these fillets in sealed freezer packaging
- Alternatively, you can cook this reef fish immediately and place them in the freezer or in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Dispose of the carcass in a trash can or in the water
Red Snapper is a prized fish that is in high demand at seafood markets.
The red snapper is a popular bottom fish across the world. Due to its popularity, anglers constantly look for areas to catch this fish species.
Fortunately, red snapper is available in the Gulf waters and the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to overfishing, the state and federal governments have established rules to ensure that the species is not overexploited.
You can find red snapper in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Texas. Each of these states has different open seasons for fishing. In addition, anglers should follow the strict maximum size limit and fishing gear requirements. Furthermore, you need a permit or a license to fish in federal and state waters.
Although they are quite heavy, you can catch red snapper if you have the right hooks and gear. They are readily available in the deep waters; therefore, you can head out using your boat or a local charter. The advantage of using a charter is that the operators know the best places to catch this fish, especially if you are a beginner.
If you are an angler, you should look out for the 2023 season dates and catch some red snapper before the annual quota is reached.