With the opening of Louisiana’s recreational red snapper season just hours away, anglers heading out of Grand Isle and Venice have several options to locate rigs that should be swarming with fish.
Buggy Vegas, with Bridgeside Marina on Grand Isle, said West Delta Blocks 31, 32 and 34, along with Grand Isle Blocks 30, 32 and 34, would be prime locations to target when the season officially opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.
“Last year we did really well in the West Delta blocks,” Vegas said. “You’re right on the outside of the 3-mile line there.”
In Venice, Capt. Mitchell Rogers with Louisiana Offshore Adventures, said just about any South Pass rig visible from Southwest Pass in water deeper than 80 feet should work.
“If you’re following the Louisiana state laws where you can go out to 10 miles, the first ones you see out of Southwest Pass in that area that are 80- to 100-feet or deeper all hold snapper,” Roger said.
All red snapper anglers are reminded to use their own personal judgement when fishing beyond the three-mile boundary that is currently recognized as federal waters. Although Louisiana officials contend state waters extend out to about 9 nautical miles, or 10.35 miles, that issue has not been resolved by the U.S. Congress. So be aware that you are subject to receive a ticket from federal agents beyond the 3-mile boundary.
After you’ve picked out a rig, Vegas said to try varying depths to locate the fish.
“If you go all the way to the bottom, you usually get the smaller ones,” he said. “You have to find out where they’re grouped at. Seems like last year we were catching bigger ones 15- to 20-feet down.”
One advantage to not fishing in water deeper than about 50 feet is that undersized snapper released from that depth typically survive, Vegas said.
“In 50 feet of water, when you release them, they go straight down. You’re not hurting anything,” Vegas said. “It’s not like being way offshore. It’s fun. You fight them, and they’re going strong when you release them.”
Tommy Vidrine, who fishes out of Grand Isle regularly, said he saw lots of red snapper on a mangrove trip last weekend.
“They’ve got so many of them out there it’s unbelievable,” Vidrine said. “You can go catch your limit of red snapper on the first rigs out of Grand Isle in 50- to 60-feet of water. It’s shallower there going straight out of Caminada Pass, and the first rigs will have them now, but people in smaller boats will go and catch all the 18- to 20-inch fish in that 50-foot water.
“It’s a short run, and they go and pick them off of there. They’ll clean out the keeper size, and after a month or so, it’s all little ones. They get depleted there pretty quick.”
Vidrine prefers the West Delta 30s blocks, where water depths range from 50 to 70 feet and the rigs hold more - and bigger - red snapper.
“What we do so we don’t catch the small ones is use a 16-aught circle hook. We’re going after 15-pound fish,” Vidrine said. “You can only catch two, so get the big ones. They steal your bait with that big hook, but once you do get hooked up, and he’s put that big bait and big hook in his mouth, you know what you’ve got on the other end.
“It’s a quality fish and you can put him in the box, and you don’t have to worry about killing them. If you’re not interested in catching bigger fish and just want your limit, go down to an 8- or 10-aught circle hook they can put in their mouth easier.”
Vidrine said he expects limits will be easy to come by, especially this early in the season.
“It’s the easiest fish in the Gulf to catch, especially to catch some big ones. They’re just dumb. And the bigger they are, it doesn’t make them any smarter,” Vidrine said. “There’s so many out there, I don’t think you can hardly miss.
“You might do a little rig-hopping, but you won’t have to hop a bunch right now.”