Fishing report: Anglers zero in on red snapper

Gainesville anglers with gulf red snappers
Gainesville anglers with gulf red snappers.
Courtesy of Gary Simpson

It was a rough opening week for deep-water enthusiasts to take their anxiously awaited trips for red snapper at the start of the 2023 season. 

Sloppy seas forced even the most determined anglers to sit tight and wait for calmer days. Finally, better weather last weekend afforded offshore anglers their first reasonable chance at the coveted red beauties that had stayed mostly safe from circle hooks a week into their open season.  

Pre-season scouting trips had sounded less than optimistic, with veteran bottom fishers declaring there were precious few snappers to be found in water less than 70 feet deep. In-season reports have pretty much confirmed the scout’s assessment, but fishers able to get out deeper than 75 seem to have fared much better, commonly showing off pictures of red beauties up to 18 or so pounds here at GTB.

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The 46-day summer red snapper season in the gulf started on June 17 and will run through July 31. Then, an upcoming fall season will include all weekends in October and November (Fridays thru Sundays).

In all, the red snapper season for 2023 spans a total of 70 days. Each angler in the gulf can harvest two red snappers at least 16 inches long, per day.

Gag grouper season, to the aggravation of red snapper seekers, will not be open in the gulf’s federal waters until September 1 and that season will run thru Nov. 10. When the gulf season opens, each harvester will be able to take two fish at least 24-inches long per day.

Red grouper season is open, and happily, red grouper reports are excellent, affording snapper fans a great secondary target. Each angler in the gulf can harvest two red groupers at least 20 inches long per day.

Inshore casters don’t have to remember quite so many opening and closing seasons. However, snook are closed now and will be through Aug. 31. The snook is a relatively recent arrival to our nearest gulf waters. 

Twenty years ago, it was accepted that Homosassa/Crystal River was the farthest north a sportfisher might hope to find the fast, powerful, and acrobatic game fish. 

Today, some South Florida anglers are traveling north to Cedar Key and Suwannee for, arguably, some of the state’s best snooking. Starting Sep. 1, each licensed angler also possessing a Snook Stamp will be able to take one snook daily, between 28 and 32 inches long.

Throw in scallop season that has been going since June 15 in the popular Steinhatchee stretch of coast, and opens July 1 in Levy, Citrus, and Hernando counties. Scalloping is a family tradition for many, and the shellfishing hordes add greatly to summertime boat ramp gaggles.

Additional hot-weather gulf targets include speckled trout, redfish, mackerel, cobia, and tripletail. Of course, length and bag limits apply to all, but presently there is no closed season for any of these popular fin fish.

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