Across South Louisiana, hurricanes and tropical storms are despised. There’s always a chance for one to hit home when they form in the Gulf, and if that happens, local residents have to pack their things and wait in approximately 143 hours of traffic to get to their hurricane-free destination.
However, red snapper anglers might be doing a happy dance this weekend thanks to an early-season storm.
Because of the effects of Tropical Storm Colin, NOAA extended the short season by two days – scheduling it to close at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday. Originally, the season was set to end Friday morning at 12:01 a.m.
Avid-angler Chris Macaluso and friends ventured offshore Wednesday morning out of Grand Isle to fish a couple of days prior to the extension.
When they first got offshore around the structures, much to their surprise, things were looking bleak.
“Nothing was biting (Wednesday) morning,” Macaluso said. “We really didn’t catch anything but sharks and jack crevalle until about 9:30.”
Cruising around the West Delta 70 Block, the anglers eventually found red snapper after a few fruitless stops.
“We bounced around three or four places, and finally we hit the right spot,” he said.
At almost every stricture, Macaluso said the boat was positioned on the downcurrent side of the platform.
Once the anglers found the fish, letting the baits fall to the correct depth was crucial.
“We would drop the bait all the way to the bottom, and then crank it up 15 or 20 cranks,” he said. “At the last stop, it didn’t take more than three or four seconds once you stopped the bait.”
Macaluso and crew were using 4-ounce sinkers to get the bait down to the depth. On the business end was an 8/0 circle hook tied to an 80-pound fluorocarbon leader.
For anglers who go offshore, having good electronics isn’t necessarily vital, but they do help out a lot, he said.
“I think they’re pretty important, but they’re not essential,” Macaluso said. “If you bounce around to enough rigs, you’re going to find them.
“I do like to make a circle around the rig and see if I can spot some bait balls. It does help you find the schools better.”
Red snapper aren’t exactly at the top of the food chain in a salty Gulf of Mexico, and Macaluso said that was quite apparent on Wednesday.
“There are a lot of sharks out there,” he said. “We lost a ton of tackle.”
After getting back to the dock, Macaluso filleted the fish, and found something extremely interesting in their stomachs.
“Pretty much every snapper I cleaned was loaded with crabs,” he said. “One of the fish I cleaned had about 20 crabs all the size of your thumb in its stomach.”
With winds forecasted five to 10 mph all weekend, anglers should have no problem getting their boats offshore, and Macaluso is certainly happy about the extended season.
“I’m glad NOAA gave fishermen a couple of extra days,” he said. “Honestly, we lost six days this season to bad weather. I was hoping we’d get a few more, but I’m glad there are the extra two.”
He’s definitely optimistic about the coming weekend, where anglers can venture into federal waters one last time on Saturday. (The state's red snapper season out to 9 nautical miles will remain open after the federal season closes.)
“Snapper fishing is always good; you just have to have the opportunity,” Macaluso said.