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How to Catch Florida Snapper Fish – Guide

Gray (Mangrove) Snapper from The St. Petersburg Pier just south of Tampa. Thonny caught by freelining small greenbacks.

Welcome to our “How to Catch Snapper Fishing Guide”! We’re big fans of snapper for a couple of reasons, one is the taste. They’re great fish to have on a sandwich or taco. The other reason we like fishing for Snapper so much, is because they are plentiful and almost always biting. You can find Snapper inshore where they’re easy to reach on your lunch break if you happen to be nearby. Target Snapper sometime soon if you haven’t already, this is a somewhat easy fish to catch and great for kids too!

[Page Updated – 30 October 2020. Bookmark this page (Windows CNTRL+D, MAC CMD+D) so you don’t lose it.]

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HOW TO CATCH SNAPPER—Guide

Snapper Gamefish Ratings

  • Size: 3/10 stars (some get 8/10)
  • Fight: 2/10 stars (some 7/10) 
  • Difficulty to Catch: 2/10 stars
  • Taste: 8/10 stars

INDEX to Sections in this Guide:


PRO TIP – The bigger the snapper, the deeper the water. Know the rules for catching snapper, you can catch 100 lbs. of some species!

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Snapper Facts

15 Species of Snapper in Florida

Most anglers don’t realize how many species of Snapper are swimming around in Florida’s waters. The Red Snapper is the only snapper with a strict season in place. The other Snapper species except the Red Snapper can be caught year round, and there are bag limits, but they are fairly high.

Black Snapper (Apsilus dentatus)

Rare Black Snapper.
Rare Black Snapper photographed by John Soward.

This is a rarely caught Florida snapper species with a black or violet to brown/black dark body with generally no outstanding features. It is found over hard bottom in 12 to 300 meters of water, and almost always below 40 meters. Can grow to 65 cm long and 3.2 kg. The black snapper is found from the Gulf of Mexico to the South Caribbean.

Identification
  • Black or dark color (violet/blue)
  • 22-24 gill rakers
  • 15-16 rays
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Blackfin Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella)

The Blackfin Tuna is easily identified by the crescent shaped black or dark spot at the base of each pectoral fin. These snapper eat a variety of smaller fish primarily. They are found in coastal water and prefer structure, rocks, wrecks, or reef to wide-open spaces. The Blackfin Snapper can grow to a maximum size of 30 inches and around 30 lbs.

Blackfin Snapper are easily recognized due to a dark crescent on their pectoral fins.
Blackfin Snapper.
Identification
  • Reddish color tending toward pink and white at the ventral (belly).
  • Black mark at base of pectoral fins.
  • Reddish color, darker on top, lighter toward ventral.
  • Rounded anal fin.
  • Orange colored eyes.
  • Very long pectoral fin in comparison with other snapper.
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Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus)

The Cubera Snapper is also known as the Cuban Snapper in Florida. This is the biggest growing and rarest snapper with canine teeth on top and bottom jaws. They get massive at around 125 lbs. and 4 feet long. The big ones and are commonly caught right around 40 lbs. These are nice big fish that are found along the coast near structure, rocks, and reef. They provide a good fight and table fare if you’re inclined to eat them. Cubera feed primarily on fish and larger crustaceans. They spawn during summer months in the Florida Keys (islands).

Cubera Snapper graphic for identification. These snapper are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCNRedlist organization.
Cubera Snapper.
Identification
  • Dark brown or grey in color, and sometimes red coloration.
  • Dark bands.
  • Flat tail fin, rounded anal fin.
  • Not very light on the belly, in contrast to most snapper.
  • Differentiated from Gray Snapper (which has an anchor-shaped tooth area on the top jaw and by size – gray is smaller).

Florida State Cubera Snapper Record: 116 lbs., caught near Clearwater Beach, Florida on the Gulf side of the state.

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Dog Snapper (Lutjanus jocu)

Dog Snapper are more easily caught at night when they are active. They can grow up to 36 inches long and over 30 lbs. They prefer the coast and over structure of any type. Dog Snapper feed on smaller fish and invertebrates.

Dog Snapper graphic. Dog Snapper are identified by a row of oddly shaped ovals under the eye.
Dog Snapper.
Identification
  • Olive, Brown, or Orange/Pink coloration.
  • Pale triangle extending below eyes toward corner of mouth.
  • Orange tail fin.
  • Row of grey oddly-shaped ovals under eye.
  • Distinguished from Schoolmaster Snapper (lacks white triangle below eye, fins are more yellow)
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Gray (Mangrove) Snapper (Lutjanus griseus)

The Gray Snapper is often called the Mangrove Snapper, Black Snapper, or Mango Snapper in Florida. Gray Snapper prefer coastal shallow water depths with reefs or structure, but can also be found in the mangroves and seagrass beds. These snapper commonly grow to 24 inches and about 10 lbs. and are targeted by recreational fisherman for their great taste and because they’re heavier than some of the other snapper species.

The Gray or Mangrove Snapper from Florida (Graphic for identification).
Gray/Mangrove Snapper – common inshore around piers in Western Florida.
Identification
  • Grey or dark brown coloration on the dorsal (top) and getting light on the ventral (bottom).
  • Reddish/Pink/Orange spots arranged in bars along the top sides.
  • Dark or red borders of dorsal fin (top fin).
  • 2 Large canine teeth in front of mouth, easily seen.
  • Distinguished from Cubera Snapper (triangle teeth patch and size… Cubera can get much bigger); Schoolmaster (has yellow fins and weak white bars/bands); and True Black Snapper which are not found north of the Florida Keys.
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Lane Snapper (Lutjanus synagris)

Lane Snapper are also called Candy Snapper or Clown Snapper by some. This can be a brightly colored fish easily distinguished by the coloration and the dark spot on the sides near the dorsal fin. Lane Snapper are amost always a pound or less and under 14 inches in length. They prefer the coast and near structure, rocks, and reef like most snapper (most fish!). Found more often in south Florida eating fish, mollusks, and crustaceans found on the ocean bottom.

Lane Snapper graphic for identification. A bright and colorful fish.
Lane Snapper are colorful and bright.
Identification
  • Red/Pink/Orange on dorsal (top) and tail fin. Many yellow stripes on side of fish from head to tail.
  • Ventral (bottom) is white.
  • Rounded anal fin.
  • Dark spot on side under dorsal fin.
  • Black edge of tail fin.
  • Differentiated from Mutton Snapper (which has pointed anal fin).

Florida State Lane Snapper Record: 6 lbs. 6 oz., caught near Pensacola, Florida in the panhandle.

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Mahogany Snapper (Lutjanus mahogoni)

The Mahogany Snapper is a nice looking fish with the pink/reddish tint on the edges of the fins. The body is a bit thicker than other small snapper so you’ll get a little extra meat on it. This species is common in size around 12 inches and 1-2 lbs. Maximum length about 15 inches and 3 lbs. Mahogany Snapper prefer shallow coast water and always over some sort of structure or reef where they feed primarily at night on smaller fish and invertebrates.

Mahogany Snapper graphic for identification. These snapper have red or pink edges to the fins, especially dorsal fin and tail.
Mahogany Snapper.
Identification
  • Grey with a reddish/pink tint on top and lighter almost white belly.
  • Large red eyes.
  • Red edge of fins easily seen in dorsal fin (top fin).
  • Dark spot on rear half of body above lateral line (mid-vertical line).
  • Differentiated from Lane Snapper (has yellow stripes and eye isn’t near as big as on Mahogany Snapper).
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Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis)

Mutton Snapper prefer coastal waters over structure and rocks. These snapper can grow to around 30 inches and up to 25 lbs. They are great eating, like the other snapper, and you can get quite a bit of flesh on one over 10 lbs. These snapper feed on smaller fish, crustaceans, and have been seen eating ocean snails.

Mutton Snapper. For some reason the boat help on charters always say "Mutton Honey!" when someone catches this Mutton Snapper.
Mutton Snapper.
Identification
  • Olive green colored body on dorsal (top) side.
  • Dark spot on side below dorsal fin and on rear half of fish (tail side).
  • Fins under lateral line (line that splits fish vertically into dorsal (top) and ventral (bottom) have a pink/red/orange cast.
  • Blue line(s) running from mouth to gill plate.
  • Pointed anal fin.
  • Differentiated from Lane Snapper (has rounded anal fin).

Florida State Mutton Snapper Record: 30 lbs. 4 oz., near Florida’s Dry Tortugas (about 60 miles west of Key West, Florida).

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Queen Snapper (Etelis oculatus)

There is little known about the Queen Snapper. They are thought to grow up to 36 inches maximum length. The adult Queen Snapper is found offshore over rocks and reefs of the Continental Shelf around 450 feet deep. Younger of the species are found in water around 200 feet deep. They are thought to consume smaller fish and squid as their main diet.

Queen Snapper graphic for identification. An oriental looking snapper with extended tail and red or pink coloration.
Queen Snapper.
Identification
  • Elongated, thin, and deeply V’ed tail.
  • Large yellow eyes.
  • Reddish/pink body darker on top, light pink/white toward ventral (bottom).
  • Very thin vertically compared to other snapper species.
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Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

The Red Snapper (American Reds or Spot Snapper) is the ultimate snapper for anglers searching for a great fighting and eating fish. Red Snapper can grow to over 40 lbs. and live for 57 years! These big snapper are found in water 30 to 600+ feet deep and usually over structure and in deeper water over sand or muddy bottom. Adults live 20+ years, and possibly much longer. Young Red Snapper are food for barracuda, sharks, turtles, jacks, and other predatory fish. Red snapper feed on fish smaller than themselves, shrimp, worms, squid, octopus, crab, worms, and even some plankton. If using artificial bait they will strike on soft baits and spoons. Red Snapper are rarely found north of the Carolinas.

Red Snapper Fish graphic for identification. This Red Snapper is great eating and they can get big. Remember the bigger they are, the worse they taste. From Florida's Gulf Coast.
Red Snapper, a highly targeted species by snapper anglers in Florida and all over the Gulf of Mexico.
Identification
  • Red/Pink/Orange body getting lighter toward ventral (belly). In deeper water, deeper red.
  • Red eyes.
  • Pointed anal fin.
  • Top and bottom jaw are usually equally as long, bottom is slightly longer in some cases.
  • Differentiated from Silk Snapper (yellow eye) and Vermilion Snapper (rounded anal fin).

Florida State Red Snapper Record: 46 lbs. 8 oz., caught near Destin, Florida.

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Schoolmaster Snapper (Lutjanus apodus)

The Schoolmaster snapper is a coastal dwelling fish, preferring shallow water near coral reefs like elkhorn reef. The deeper the water, the larger the Schoolmaster tends to be. Maximum size 24 inches long and 8 lbs. Schoolmasters are common under 1 lb. These snapper feed on small fish and crustaceans and gastropods.

Schoolmaster Snapper graphic for identification. Schoolmasters are like butterscotch candies color.
Schoolmaster Snapper.
Identification
  • Body is grey or brown with yellow, getting lighter on the ventral (belly).
  • Differentiated from Dog Snapper (with pale triangle under eye) and Gray Snapper (no yellow fins, no blue stripe below eyes).
  • Blue stripe below eyes, can be broken series of ovals/dots.
  • 8+ Bands of darker color.
  • Fins are yellow.
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Silk Snapper (Lutjanus vivanus)

The Silk Snapper is reddish pink and unremarkable as far as pattern or coloration. They prefer offshore deeper water near rocky ledges and are most common in South Florida. They eat smaller fish and crustaceans as their main diet. They grow to around 30 inches and about 5 lbs.

Silk Snapper graphic for identification. The Silk Snapper has yellow eyes, not red like the Red Snapper.
Silk Snapper.
Identification
  • Yellow eyes.
  • Yellow tint to edges of fins.
  • Medium fork in tail.
  • Pink/red body darker on top, almost white on bottom.
  • Pointed anal fin.
  • Long pectoral fins are pale yellow.
  • Back edge of tail trimmed in black
  • No dark spot on sides in adults

Similar Species: Red snapper, L. campechanus (has red eyes)

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Vermilion Snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens)

Also called Beeliner and Mingo snapper. Found offshore and over structure like wrecks and rocks. Vermilion snapper grow to 24 inches and 6 lbs. maximum and are commonly found in the 14 inch length under 2 lbs. List most snapper, it feeds on fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. Vulnerable (VU) on IUCN Redlist. Numbers are decreasing.

Vermilion Snapper graphic for identification. Large red eyes. Rounded anal fin (Red Snapper has pointed).
Vermilion Snapper.
Identification
  • Pink, red, or orange body and tail getting lighter toward ventral (belly).
  • Large red eyes.
  • Anal fin not sharply pointed.
  • Some have irregular yellow lines below mid-body.
  • Differentiated from Red Snapper which has a pointed anal fin.

Florida State Record: 6.19 lbs. caught in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017.

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Wenchman Snapper (Pristipomoides aquilonaris)

Very rare, and little is known about the Wenchman Snapper. It is difficult to even source an image of the fish. They appear to have no real outstanding pattern, and their coloration is either reddish pink like this, or pale yellow/lavender.

Wenchman Snapper photo for identification. A small featureless snapper with a deep fork in the tail and long pectoral fins for the size.
Wenchman Snapper.
Identification
  • Body color pink to lavender.
  • No distinct markings.
  • Deeply forked tail.
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Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus)

Yellow tail are generally small fish under 30 inches and only about 5 lbs. for most of them. They are in shallow water near coral reef for the most part. They love the warm water of Florida and can be found year round in some southern parts of the state. They spawn in Summer. Like every other snapper, they feed on fish and some invertebrates.

Yellowtail Snapper graphic for identification. Yellow dots on the top half and a unique tail distinguishes this snapper from others.
Yellowtail Snapper.
Identification
  • Dorsal side is olive green to blue/black with some yellow spots.
  • Thick yellow line extending from nose, through eye, to tail.
  • Tail is yellow.
  • Yellow spots on dorsal side (top by dorsal fin).

Yellowtail Snapper State Record: 8 lbs. 9 oz., caught off the coast of Fort Myers Beach, Forida.

Similar Species to Red Snapper: All other Snapper species are similar in body shape, but coloration and patterns differ significantly.

IUCN Redlist Status: Least Concern (LC) for most Snapper in Florida and across their range. Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus) are listed as Vulnerable (VU) and decreasing in numbers, this is only one step away from ENDANGERED Status. Though rare, if you catch one, please consider throwing it back in the water to live and spawn. Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is also listed as VU – Vulnerable, with populations decreasing. Florida Fish and Wildlife has strict laws in place to protect Red Snapper from overfishing, but ideally you wouldn’t target the species. Vermilion Snapper are also listed as VU – Vulnerable with numbers decreasing.

Appearance: Generally in some way like a large pinfish. Snapper are generally darker on the top (dorsal) and lighter toward the bottom (ventral). Some snapper have tell-tale marks that distinguish them from other species. Look for dark marks on the side under the top (dorsal) fin, and also for an odd shape on the pectoral fins ( Snapper). Look for a row of grey dots under the eye that form a line (). Look at the anal fin (the one in front of the anus) and see if it is rounded or pointed. Look to see which fins are yellow. All of these features can clue you in to figuring out which Snapper species you’ve caught. The only regulated Snapper in Florida is the Red Snapper. Do be careful to ensure you abide by Florida’s strict fishing rules.

Length: Usually 10-15 inches long inshore. In deep water the size of some Snapper can range dramatically and you can find some 20+ inch fish.

Weight: Most Snapper you’ll catch inshore are around 1 lb. There are far more smaller Snapper than big ones inshore. It’s still possible to get a little bigger fish inshore, but you’ll usually catch the smaller ones. The further you move offshore, and the deeper water you get into, the better chance you have at finding 5 lb., 10 lb., 30 lb. Snapper. There are plenty to find!

Range/Distribution: All over both coasts of Florida, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and down to Key West. That covers the range for Florida, but you can find Snapper in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Mexico, South America, and in the Caribbean.

Habitat: Snapper can be found in shallow and deep water. The main feature to look for in the hunt for Snapper is something in the water. A pier, a bridge, a cement wall, a boat, a wreck, rocks, wood, an artificial reef, a coral reef, a wreck, a downed plane, anything. Snapper love structure in the water because they ambush prey and can force fish into situations they cannot get out of easily, and are eaten. Snapper are primarily small fish eaters.

Diet: Small fish of all kinds are excellent Snapper bait. Before you go Snapper fishing, throw a cast net in the shallows and see if you can get some small baitfish. I mean real small if you’re fishing inshore, something like 1-3 inches long. In the photo at the top of this page you can see Thonny in St. Petersburgh, Florida holding a nice Gray Snapper he caught off a very small greenback (baitfish) that was only about 1.5 inches long. You don’t need big bait to catch grouper of that size, fill a bucket with bait you catch and hit the piers. Don’t forget the aeration (bubble maker) in the bucket, or get a bait bucket that will allow you to drop it over the side of the pier to keep water flowing through it. That will keep your bait alive much longer.

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Snapper Fishing World Records (All Tackle)

World records for some of the Snapper Species

Atlantic Cubera – The biggest of the Snapper species has a world record size of 56.59 kg (124 lbs. 12 oz.) and was caught off Garden Bank, Louisiana on June 23, 2007 by Angler, Marion Rose.

Blackfin Snapper – The biggest Blackfin Snapper in the world was 3.86 kg (8 lbs. 8 oz.) and caught off the last island in the Florida Keys, Key West, Florida on June 14th, 2011. The lucky Blackfin Snapper angler was Martini Arostegui.

Dog Snapper – The biggest Dog Snapper ever caught on record is the world record catch weighing 10.90 kg (24 lbs. 0 oz.). This big snapper came from an area known as the Hole in the Wall, Abaco, Bahamas. The world record holder is Captain Wayne Barder who caught the fish on May 28, 1994.

Lane Snapper – The world record Lane Snapper was caught almost twenty years ago on August 25, 2001 by Stephen Wilson off the town of Horseshoe Rigs, Mississippi. The big fish was 3.72 kg (8 lbs. 3 oz.).

Mangrove (Gray) Snapper – The world’s biggest Mangrove Snapper was caught on July 22, 2020 off Cocodrie, Louisiana and weighed 18.63 lbs. and was 31 and 7/8 inches long. Tim Champagne was the lucky angler. He caught the giant Mangrove Snapper on a croaker fished on topwater!

World's biggest (World Record) Gray (Mangrove) Snapper caught in Louisiana by Tim Champagne.
World Record Gray (Mangrove) Snapper held up by Tim Champagne.

Mutton Snapper – The World Record Mutton Snapper was caught by Richard Casey on November 29, 1998 while fishing off the Dry Tortugas, Florida. This is west of Key West. The weight of this big Mutton Snapper was 13.72 kg (30 lbs. 4 oz.).

Red Snapper – The world record for red snapper, weighing 50 lbs. and 4 oz., was caught in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast by Henry ‘Doc’ Kennedy in 1996. Henry insisted he had two giant Red Snapper on the same line and the bigger fish got away!

World Record red snapper fish from Louisiana. 50 lbs. 4 oz. caught in Gulf of Mexico in 1996.
Henry Kennedy with his trophy World Record Red Snapper. Now that’s a nice fish!

Schoolmaster Snapper – The biggest landed Schoolmaster Snapper was a 6.02 kg (13 lbs. 4 oz.) fish caught in North Key Largo, Florida in the Florida Keys. This catch was recorded on September 3, 1999 by angler Gustavo Pla.

Silk Snapper – James Taylor caught the World Record Silk Snapper weighed 8.32 kg (18 lbs. 5 oz.) and was caught on July 12, 1986 off the coast of Venice, Florida on the Gulf Coast.

Vermilion Snapper – Vermilion Snapper don’t get all that big, so this 3.26 kg (7 lbs. 3 oz.) fish from the Gulf of Mexico off Mobile, Alabama may not seem big, but it’s huge for a Vermilion Snapper! Caught by angler John Doss on May 31, 1987. A record never to be broken?

Yellowtail Snapper – The world’s biggest Yellowtail Snapper was 50 cm. long (about 20 inches) and was caught in the waters around Key West, Florida on June 15, 2012.

Florida State Snapper Records

We’ve added Florida State Snapper records to the records for these fish listed above: Cubera, Lane, Mutton, Red, Vermilion, and Yellowtail.

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Why Catch Snapper?

Huge Red Snapper caught offshore while Deep Sea Fishing.
An absolute monster of a Red Snapper caught offshore while deep sea fishing, I’m guessing over some sort of structure!

Snapper are always around. If you’re standing on a beach with structure of any kind, a pier, a dock, a boat, a sea wall, fallen trees, a wreck, rocks, literally anything, and you probably have snapper close enough to you to catch. Snapper is like the ultimate always-available fish. AND they are delicious. They grow quickly and don’t have a chance to eat a lot of mercury and other toxic metals in smaller fish and marine-life, so you’re generally safe to eat Snapper often.

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Where To Find Snapper?

Find some structure. It’s that simple. Snapper are widely distributed and absolutely love structure of any kind. If you’re inshore, head to piers, bridges, rocks, or fallen trees. If you have a boat, head out into deeper water for bigger Snapper action. Find wrecks and reefs for the best chance to find some keeper Snappers. The easiest place to catch snapper is to go to a saltwater canal and throw small baitfish free-lined on a non-stainless 1/0 circle hook (non-offset).

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What Do Snapper Eat?

Snapper are mostly fish eaters. They eat fish smaller than them, obviously. Any small baitfish is a great bait for Snapper of all kinds. You can also try other baits like live crabs, squid, sardines, and jumbo shrimp. Throw a cast-net over a shallow area, especially with seagrass and see what sort of baitfish you can find. The mangroves are excellent for this, lots of seagrass and bait in the shallows. Pinfish are too big for Snapper inshore, but good for offshore if you can’t get bigger baitfish.

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How to Catch Snapper—Techniques

From Inshore

There isn’t much to catching snapper, you just have to be where the fish are. Freelining a small live baitfish is the easiest and one of the best ways to do it when the tide isn’t pulling hard. When it is, you can use a swivel to drop an ounce or two sinker to the bottom and float the baitfish off the bottom.

A 1/0 Circle hook (non-offset) and a 20 lb. mono or fluorocarbon leader is all you need to catch almost any size snapper you’re going to find inshore. Most will be under a pound, and if you’re lucky, you’ll hook into something around 5 lbs.

From a Small Boat – Kayak, Canoe

If you have a boat, you’re probably going after something other than snapper, but some people do it and have a blast. Especially if you’re fishing with kids and you want them to have FISH-ON often, snapper fishing is a great way to keep them interested in the hobby and coming back for more. What better way to spend time with your kids?!

From a boat, hold over any sort of structure or rocks and drop a live baitfish down to see what grabs it. Snapper can be there by the hundreds, and you will be catching them all day if you find the right spot. The deeper the water, the bigger the snapper (and other fish, generally). But, you can find snapper in 3 feet of water. Once you know a couple of spots to find them, you can find snapper in the same places for years. A saltwater canal full of docks is the ideal place to find Snapper, Black Drum, Redfish, Sheepshead, and Flounder.

If you can free-line baitfish as you fish from the boat, even better. If you have to use some weight, try some pinch on sinkers to start and see if that’s enough. Put the sinkers far from the fish so it can swim more naturally.

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When Is the Best Time to Catch Snapper?

All year! They are most active in the warm months, they seem to enjoy the warmer water. The cool thing about Snapper is that you can often find them biting regardless of tide conditions, especially when you have the right size baitfish (small) on the end of a hook they can’t see, on a line they can’t see. You may be catching them all day. Change it up and go for Snapper at night too from a fishing pier, some species of them tend to bite more at night.

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Snapper Gear—The Basics

Best Rod for Snapper

Anything. Use a light rod if you have it, but you don’t need much to catch what are usually 1 lb. fish from the shore. From a pier you can get into bigger fish, and a medium-light rod is fine. A medium-heavy rod is for those trips out to deep water where you’re after something big and it might not be a huge Red Snapper that grabs your baitfish, it might be a tuna or god knows what else. You’ll need to be ready for anything the deeper you fish.

Click One to See Our Rod Recommendation for Different Snapper Fishing Spots:

Inshore Snapper Rod

Pier Snapper Rod

Deep Sea Snapper Rod, you can also go heavier on this one. I just figure if you already have this rod, you can use it for all kinds of fish – even 30+ lb. snappers.

As I said, I think just about any rod can catch small snapper, you could put a line on a piece of bamboo and dangle it over a dock and catch snapper. They bite often – always hungry – and they are not difficult to catch, especially with a clear mono or fluorocarbon line that they cannot see well.

I almost always use the same rod for all my inshore fishing. It’s in my truck and ready to go.

UGLY STIK at Amazon


Best Reel for Snapper Fishing?

Baitcasting or Spinning Rod – Either is Fine

The reel doesn’t matter when catching small fish. Go with what you know and love. I love baitcasting reels, so I’ll give you two of my favorites here for fish under 20 lbs.

My Favorite Reel (at Amazon) for Inshore Fishing (Snook, Redfish, Cobia) Made in America (Philadelphia, PA.)

Here’s a less-expensive alternative (at Amazon) that is also great for catching inshore fish, but more of a beginner’s baitcasting reel.

Best Spinning Reel for Snapper?

Here’s a basic Sienna Spinning Reel (at Amazon) that is great for Snapper and other smaller fish you will find inshore and from piers and docks. This is a beginner’s reel that can handle a lot, and it’s a great starter reel.

This is one of my favorite Shimano Spinning Reels (at Amazon). If you’re really into fishing, you should have a reel that will last for many years and put a smile on your face constantly.


Best Line for Snapper?

I like this 30-40 lb. braided line for snapper fishing inshore and offshore as long as not going for huge fish. If going for big fish, I’ll use 80-100 lb. braided.

Don’t Forget the Leader

20 lb. test clear leader is ideal for Snapper because the less the fish can see the line, the more hookups you’ll get. Snapper are quite aware of the line and sometimes it spooks them.

Get this Fluorocarbon leader for inshore.


Best Hooks for Snapper Fishing?

The best hooks (at Amazon) for snapper don’t matter all that much when inshore fishing. You can use a 1/0 circle hook that is not made of stainless steel and not offset to stay within the law.


Best Snapper Fishing Rigs?

The Old Egg Sinker Rig. This works when you have current, but I’d prefer a 3-way swivel with a 1-2 oz. sinker off one side and a 6 foot 20 lb. leader with a 1/0 circle hook (non-offset) instead. With egg sinkers, be sure you beef up the 2-way swivel to handle the pounding of the sinker with each cast.

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Snapper Fishing Laws in Florida

ALERT: New Snapper Fishing Laws in Effect

Effective July 1, 2020. Anglers taking reef fish like Snapper on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from a private fishing vessel (boat) are required to register with the FWC for the “State Reef Fish Angler” designation.

The State Reef Fish Survey replaced the Gulf Reef Fish Survey on July 1, 2020. All anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish from a private vessel are required to obtain the State Reef Fish Angler designation.

Effective Jan 1, 2021. New Reef Fish (includes Snapper) Gear Requirements for Atlantic State and Federal Waters

Florida Atlantic Coast (from 28° N latitude (around Melbourne)). Anglers fishing with rod/reel hook/line with natural (living or once living) bait to target reef fish like Snapper from a boat in Atlantic state waters MUST USE NON-STAINLESS STEEL CIRCLE HOOKS which are NOT OFFSET.

Anglers fishing with rod/reel hook/line with natural bait to target reef fish SOUTH OF 28°N must use non-stainless steel hooks. (Offset Circle hooks not specified).

Unregulated Species of Snapper

Most Snapper (except Red Snapper) are classified as unregulated species. That only means there is season for harvesting these species of fish. However, you may only keep up to 100 lbs. of unregulated Snapper per day, or 2 fish if their combined weight is over 100 lbs. Their combined weight cannot be more than 150 lbs.

Snapper License Requirements

Snapper fishing in Florida waters is just like fishing for other fish, there is no Snapper permit required, but there is the need to register for the State Fish Reef Survey program if you plan on taking or fishing for Snapper from a boat.

Legal Gear for Harvesting Snapper Fish

Legal gear for harvesting (keeping) Snappers includes hook and line, spears, gigs, haul seines and casting nets. It is illegal to take snapper using chemicals, explosives, electricity (shocking), bang sticks, or in fish traps, or in any other manner not specified in the preceding sentence.


East Coast (Atlantic) Laws

Red Snapper season is open year round on the Atlantic side of Florida State. In the Gulf – no.

In Atlantic federal waters there are also new restrictions for Snapper/Grouper fishing. Go here to see details.


Get the Fishing App

If fishing from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, Georgia, South or North Carolina, you can use this mobile application to stay up to date on the fishing rules on the Atlantic Coast.

Farming Snapper Fish

In the Philippines in 2020, they have made a breakthrough in Red Snapper reproduction and farming and they will be ramping up the production of the fish to supplement supply from countries abroad. Red Snapper is a great fish to eat but the cost is too high in the Philippines. They hope to create a number of these Snapper farming facilities around the country in the next few years.

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How to Cook Snapper?

I like to pan-fry Snapper I catch. I only eat the small ones – maximum a couple of pounds. Otherwise, I just think they don’t taste as good. Smaller fish are always better in my opinion.To pan fry, just gut them and remove the scales. Throw some butter in a frying pan and cook them skin side down. I usually put a lid on, but I use a lid that is too small for the frying pan. Doing this allows most of the steam to escape. Steam can make fish taste bland and toughens the flesh. I like it soft.

I almost always cook my fish with lemon and good fatty and salty butter. It won’t take long at all to pan-fry snapper, so give it a few minutes on each side once the pan is hot.If you like Snapper a lot, you can make fish tacos with the flesh. Snapper tastes amazing and most people enjoy the taste. Pan fry it or broil it before adding to taco seasoning for putting on tacos. Ideally, you’ll go the whole 9-yards and add some guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, and of course CHEESE!

PRO TIP – Any fish can have parasites. When you cut open the fish to fillet it, have a look at the flesh to see if you see any bloody red or dark or white spots. You can cut them out and eat the fish if you want, but most people just throw it away. This is another reason to just eat the smaller-sized legal fish you catch, not the big ones. Throw the big ones back after a few photos. Let them live a while longer and provide hundreds or thousands more fish for future generations.

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Snapper Guide Resources

Image credits: Some images were sourced from stock agencies, others were obtained directly from anglers in Florida. The excellent identification drawings of most of the snapper are by Diane Peebles. She was commissioned by the State of Florida to provide accurate drawings, and these are incredibly accurate.

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More Fishing Guides with All You Need to Know

Deep Sea Fishing | Kayak Fishing | Pier Fishing | Inshore Fishing | Wade-Fishing

Florida Fish Guides

Amberjack | Black Drum | Bluefish | Cobia | Dorado (Dolphin, Mahi-mahi) | Florida Pompano | Grouper | Gulf Flounder | Jack Crevalle (Jacks) | Lobster! | Permit | Red-bellied Pacu (like piranha) | Redfish (Reds, Red Drum) and Redfish Index | Salmon Index | Shark Fishing | Sheepshead | Snapper | Snook | Speckled Trout | Tarpon and Tarpon Index | Tripletail

Fishing Tacklebox Essentials

Florida Fish Regulation Ruler (Belt)

Florida fish legal limits – make sure you get for the year you will be fishing.
Durable and waterproof, this essential fish ruler will keep you out of trouble on the water! Get yours HERE.

Fish Scale (Digital and up to 110 lbs.)

Fish scale to weigh your fish. Also has measuring tape.
Know how much your fish weighs immediately. Buy this handy scale HERE.

Florida Fishing Identification Booklet – 5×7″ Laminated (Waterproof)

Florida Saltwater Fish ID guide for helping you identify legal fish caught in Florida.
Some fish are difficult to identify. Make sure you know 100% which fish you have before you keep it. Florida fishing regulations are strictly enforced. Buy this little 5 inch by 7 inch booklet HERE.

Snapper Covered in this Guide: Red, Vermilion, Gray (Mangrove), Schoolmaster, Mutton, Cubera, Lane, Black, Wenchman, Queen, Blackfin, Silk, Yellowtail, Dog, Mahogany.

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