How To Catch Snapper From Shore

Red Snapper is an amazing species of saltwater fish that can be located in oceans, bays, and natural water systems (estuaries) around the world. Snappers can survive and inhabit brackish water, which is a combination of both salt and freshwater. 

They prefer environments with reefs, ledges, ridges, and rocky outcrops, where there is an abundance of structure to provide cover and feeding opportunities. They are also known to hang around artificial structures like shipwrecks and oil rigs.

Snappers can usually be found at depths ranging from 30-200ft (9-60m), but have been caught at a depth of 300ft (90m). Smaller fish can be found in the upper water column while mature and larger adults can be targeted near the bottom, smaller fish will not be allowed to share this territory.

Red Snapper features a laterally compressed body, a spiny dorsal fin, and medium to large scales. They feature short sharp teeth that can be described as needle-like. 

They are however not equipped with upper canine teeth one would find on similar species like Mangrove, Dog, or Mutton Snapper. They are light red in color with darker coloration on the back. They also feature 8-9 anal soft rays, 3 anal spines, 14 soft dorsal rays, and 10 dorsal spines.  

Red Snapper can achieve lengths of up to 39in (100cm) but are commonly caught when they are around 24in (60cm). The largest Red Snapper on record weighed in at an impressive 22.79kg (50lb, 4oz). This species is gregarious and is known to form schools, which are made up of fish of a similar size.

Red Snapper have insatiable appetites and are extremely territorial, they have evolved into highly effective ambush predators who don’t actively pursue their prey. Red Snapper feed on cephalopods (octopus and squid), crab, worms, plankton, shrimp, and a wide variety of smaller fish that can be found within their habitat.

Red Snapper are highly sought after by recreational fishermen. They are extremely strong animals and always offer a memorable fight. They don’t come up easily and will try every trick in the book to get off your hook. Red Snappers are also really good eating and are considered to be excellent table fare. 

For this reason, Snappers are also targeted by commercial fishermen and hold reasonable commercial value. Studies suggest that commercial fishermen are responsible for 51% of the total catch.

How to catch Red Snapper from the shore

Red Snapper are territorial ambush predators who don’t actively pursue their prey. So, when targeting them it is vital for you to get your bait to them. Often these locations are not within the casting range of shore anglers, therefore, catching Red Snapper from the shore is uncommon. 

If you are lucky enough to reside close to in-shore reefs or artificial structures then targeting Red Snapper from shore can be loads of fun.

When targeting Red Snapper from shore you may want to keep your expectations low. If you can wrap your head around this and continue to target them, successfully catching one can be extremely rewarding. When using live bait try to keep it as natural as possible. 

When fishing dead bait, just cast it out and leave it alone. There is no need to retrieve your bait or apply any additional jerks or twitches. Allow your bait to lie motionless on the bottom, Red Snapper are known to strike when their prey isn’t moving. 

They usually engulf their prey head first so it’s recommended that you hook your bait through the eyes. Red Snappers are notoriously dirty fighters. 

So, when hooked, it is important to bring them to the surface as quickly as possible to avoid your line getting snagged. If the bite is slow try fishing different areas, sometimes the Snapper are closer than you think. Chumming some fresh mackerel and squid can often bring them closer for an easy meal. Red Snapper are territorial and will only relocate if food sources start diminishing or if they feel threatened.

How to catch Red Snapper from the rocks

Red Snapper can be targeted from rocks and the most successful technique is using the Paternoster Rig. This rig will get your bait down to the bottom where the large Red Snapper congregates. Cast your bait towards gravel beds, structures, or artificial reefs like shipwrecks. 

Attach a 4oz Snapper Lead to the longer dropper, this will assist with improved casting distance. Just like fishing from the shore, once your bait has been cast just leave it to lie motionless on the bottom. If you get into a fish, try and get to the rocks as soon as you can.

What is the best bait for Red Snapper?

How to catch red snapper from shore

Red Snapper can be caught using live or dead bait. Some believe that dead bait is king, while others agree that live bait is more natural and therefore a better option. Red Snapper are in no way fussy eaters, but there does seem to be some species that they find irresistible and favor over others.

When using live bait, almost any species that can be found within the Snappers’ habitat will work. The best live bait however are mullet, cigar minnows, and Shad. These baits are quite hardy, will survive longer than most baits and Red Snapper absolutely love them.

When using dead bait, squid and northern mackerel are the best baits. You could either use a whole squid or a whole mackerel, or you can combine the two. Slice a piece of squid into a rectangular shape (4”x 8”) and tenderize thoroughly with a tenderizing mallet. This will not only soften the squid but also allow it to release additional oils when in the water. 

Slice a chunk of fresh mackerel to fit the squid, place on top, and roll into a cylindrical-shaped bait. Using fishing cotton, tie the two baits together to ensure they don’t come apart when cast. 

The mackerel will complement the oils from the squid by giving off a strong smell to attract hungry predators. If these baits aren’t available there are other great options. Cigar minnows, blade-runner, sardine, and herring are more than capable of producing a large Red Snapper.

What are the best artificial lures to target Red Snapper from the Shore?

Red Snapper can be successfully caught using artificial lures. There are numerous fantastic designs available, which if fished correctly can fool Snapper into eating them time after time. 

As mentioned earlier, juvenile Red Snapper are forced to the upper water column so they can be targeted in this area. Top Water and shallow-diving hard body lures can be effective.

When targeting a large Red Snapper, the key is to get your lure down to the bottom because that is where the larger fish tend to hold. Spoons, bucktail jigs, vertical jigging lures, and deep-diving hard-body lures are ideal. 

Spoons and bucktail jigs, although simple in design, are extremely versatile and a great choice for targeting large Red Snapper and numerous other types of saltwater fish. They offer excellent long-casting capabilities, are extremely durable, and can be fished in any water column at different speeds.

Which rod should you use to target Red Snapper from Shore?

Red Snapper don’t grow that big and can be considered to be a small to medium-sized species. When targeting them a medium-duty rod is ideal and there is no need to go bigger.

A medium-action spinning rod with long-casting capabilities is perfect for getting your bait out to the fish and still offer enough sensitivity to allow you to enjoy fighting and bringing the fish in. Numerous manufacturers are producing innovative and durable designs that are ideal for targeting Red Snapper.

What reel should you use when targeting Red Snapper from Shore?

When choosing a reel to target Red Snapper from shore, the size of the spool is one of the most important things to consider. The bigger the spool, the more braided line you will be able to fit on it. This is important because of the distance needed to reach the fishing zone and still be prepared for a long deep run. 

The more line that you have on your spool, then the greater your casting distance will be. This is because a half-filled spool will result in the line hitting the wall of the spool and will greatly reduce your casting distance. A 5000-6000 is a great choice, you could use smaller reels but it’s unlikely you will achieve the resistances required.

Another important thing to consider when choosing a reel to target a Red snapper from the shore is the quality of the reel. It should be powerful enough to bring in a large fish, offer a decent gear ratio, and have a minimum drag setting of 20lb’s. Your reel should be strong enough to pull the Red Snapper from heavy structures. 

When hooked, the Red Snapper will immediately try to get back to its hole or crevice where it feels safe. You need to do everything in your power to prevent this. If the fish is successful, there is a great chance that your line will get snagged on the reef or rocky outcrop.

What is the best time to fish for Red Snapper?

Red Snappers are great to target because you can catch them all the time. When fishing estuaries, the best time to target large Red Snapper are the first couple of hours after sunrise and the last couple of hours leading up to sunset. 

These are known as the twilight hours and are responsible for most of the trophy fish that are caught. Activity is high at these times and larger predatory fish seem to take full advantage of it. Large Red Snappers also feed at night and this is a great time to target them. 

Juvenile Red Snappers are active throughout the day and can be targeted at any time. Dead bait works better at night and allows the Snapper to smell your bait long before it sees or detects it.

When fishing offshore the best time to target Snapper are the hours before and after the tide turns, and the incoming tide is best. The greater the amount of moving water, the greater your chance of catching a Red Snapper. 

The current or moving water will disturb smaller baitfish and subsequently makes it easier for predatory fish to feed on them. The incoming tide also makes the water deeper which creates the perfect hunting ground for these predators. 

Spring tides produce deeper waters, additional water movement, and longer tidal changes. It is a great time to target Red Snapper and shouldn’t be missed.

At night the darkness provides some security for the Red Snapper. Apart from the cover darkness provides, their predators like grouper or shark don’t generally feed. This allows them to approach structures that are closer to shore and puts them into your casting range. 

Targeting Red Snapper when the water is murky and dirty is also recommended for the same reason. Fishing after heavy swell or heavy storms is another great trick for successfully targeting Red Snapper. The heavy currents and the massive amount of incoming freshwater present excellent feeding conditions for the Red Snapper and definitely turns them on the bite.

Best time of the year to fish for Red Snapper?

Red Snapper can be located all year round but are significantly more active in the summer or warmer months. The best time to target them is in June and July. Their spawning season takes place between May and September and during the peak, they will concentrate near structures offshore. 

Although Snappers are less active in winter or the cooler months, they can still be successfully targeted. This is also a great time to target them and although you won’t catch many, on average your catch will be larger.

What is the best rig for targeting Red Snapper from shore?

How to catch red snapper from shore
Pulley Rig

The best rig for catching Red Snapper is the Pulley Rig, it offers aerodynamic bait presentation and an impact shield that keeps the larger objects of the rig together (sinker and hook). 

The pulley rig allows fishermen to apply extreme loads, which results in a greater casting distance. It also can lift the sinker off the ground when a large red Snapper takes the bait. Red Snappers are known to inhabit reef and rocky environments, so this is a huge advantage in preventing your rig (sinker) from getting stuck in the reef. 

If this set-up is not available, the classic Fish Finder Rig or the extremely popular Carolina Rig will also work. Both these rigs are proven to get large fish.

What line should I use to target Red Snapper from shore?

When targeting Red Snapper from the shore, your line choice is extremely important. Braid or Braided Line is a great choice as a mainline. Braid provides a low line diameter and offers incredible breaking strength. This results in outstanding long-casting capabilities because there is less wind resistance when being cast. 

It also allows more line to be put on the spool and offers a very direct feeling when hooked into a large fish. A 30lb Braid should be strong enough to target and catch almost any size Red Snapper.

Some believe that if you are fishing a Pulley Rig, it is not necessary to fish with a shock leader. I recommend that all fishermen, regardless of their target species, always fish with a leader. 

Leaders are almost invisible underwater, abrasion-resistant, and are fast sinking. A 60-80lb monofilament shock leader is ideal when using a Pulley, Fish Finder, or Carolina Rig to target Red Snapper. 

Tie your sinker to the body of the rig, and then use the leader to connect the rig to the mainline. Fluorocarbon can also be used as a shock leader and comes down to personal preference. Both options are abrasion resistant, strong, thick, and offer sufficient stretch to absorb the shock of the initial strike. Fluorocarbon is less visible in the water which is great when targeting species with excellent eyesight.

What is the best sinker to use when targeting Red Snapper from shore?

Casting is an important element when targeting Red Snapper from shore. Therefore the size, type, and shape of your sinker is very important. A sinker that weighs around 4-6oz is perfect, this will be heavy enough to achieve decent casting distances. 

The sinker should also be made with an aerodynamic design to further assist in achieving the required casting distance. Pyramid sinkers can be used, and are more effective in holding the rig at the bottom. Unfortunately, the pyramid shape is not as aerodynamic and therefore reduces casting distance. 

Breakaway sinkers are a great choice and provide the best of both worlds, and provide the optimum casting weight for all fishing conditions. They offer an attractive aerodynamic design and hold the bottom really well due to the wire design. They are also a great option because they don’t get snagged on reefs or rocks very easily. The innovative wire design snaps open when extreme pressure is applied.

Which hook should I choose when targeting Red Snapper from shore?

Red snappers are extremely powerful and will perform hard downward runs when hooked. Combine this with serious head shakes, and you will see them as they try everything to get off your line. 

The correct type and shape of the hook are very important to ensure your catch doesn’t get away. Apart from the type and shape, quality, anti-corrosive qualities, and strength are some things to look out for.

The best hook to use when targeting Red Snapper is the Circle Hook. They feature a point that bends back and faces the shank. This unique design allows the fish to be hooked in the mouth and reduces any chance of it getting away. 

Another great feature of the circle hook is that it eliminates any chance of a deep hook. A deep hook is when a fish completely engulfs the bait and gets hooked in the stomach or throat. This usually results in the fish dying so if you are practicing catch and release, the circle hook is your best option to ensure that the fish survives. 

Another great feature of the circle hook is that it has been designed to rotate and hook the fish in the mouth when tension is applied. This means there is no need for the angler to set the hook. The ideal size hook for targeting Red snapper from shore is a 5/0, 6/0, or 7/0.

Mangrove Snapper vs. Red Snapper

Mangrove Snapper

The Mangrove Snapper is a small-medium sized saltwater species and is also commonly known as the Gray Snapper. They can be found in Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Mangrove Snapper can be located in estuaries, bays, canals, reefs, artificial structures, grass flats, and mangroves. They can also survive in salt, fresh, and brackish water (salt and freshwater).

Mangrove Snapper are usually reddish-gray in color but they can change to a vibrant red-copper color as they start to mature. This beautiful species features a strong, prominent dark stripe that runs alongside the eyes. Juvenile Mangrove Snapper look similar and are often confused with their cousin, the spectacular Cubera Snapper. 

The only way to distinguish between the two is by examining the tooth pattern inside their mouth. Mangrove Snapper don’t grow nearly as big as the Cubera snapper, but pound for pound they display the same brute strength, stubbornness, and tenacity.

Mangrove Snapper are intelligent and effective ambush predators, their diet is mainly made of smaller fish and crustaceans. They aren’t fussy eaters and have healthy appetites. Juveniles will school by size, so when they are around you can have loads of fun. 

The best live bait for targeting Mangrove Snapper is Ballyhoo, Pilchards, Mullet, Shrimp, Cigar Minnows, Grunts, and Squid. The best dead baits are frozen Grunts, frozen Sardine, and frozen cigar minnows. 

Mangrove Snapper are a fantastic eating fish and are often targeted by recreational fishermen for their delicious flesh. It is quite versatile and can be grilled, fried, deep-fried, smoked, or preserved.

Summary

Red Snapper can be found in oceans, bays, and natural water systems. They are small to medium-sized saltwater species which habit reef, structure, and rocky outcrops. Red Snapper can be targeted from the shore but catching them is uncommon. 

The main reason for this is because it’s difficult to get your bait to where the Red Snappers are. They are territorial ambush predators who don’t actively pursue their prey.

The best live bait are shad, mullet, and cigar minnows. The best dead bait is mackerel and squid. Red Snapper can also be targeted using artificial lures like spoons and jig heads. Red Snappers are highly sought after by recreational and commercial fishermen because they are extremely powerful and fun to catch. They are also considered to be excellent table fare.

The best time to target them is in the early morning, late afternoon, and the turn of the tide. The incoming high tide is considered the best time to target Red Snapper. The best time of year to target Red Snapper is in the summer months as this is the season for spawning and activity is high.