BY ANDY CRAWFORD
|Photos by ANDY CRAWFORD
|To catch big snapper, you don’t need
to drop bait all the way to the bottom. Usually these sows
are suspending well above the school of juvenile fish.
Snapper season opened a few days ago, and you’re dying to get
But where do you go? Venice? Grand Isle? Cocodrie? Lake Charles?
And what tackle should you bring? Light? Heavy? Both?
Once you get to a rig, what are you supposed to do to catch
the real monster snapper? Will they be hanging around inside the
legs of the platform, or will they be away from the structure?
Should you concentrate on the upcurrent side? Or perhaps you’ll
have better luck on downcurrent.
These are just some of the choices facing snapper fanatics as
they come off an eight-month hiatus.
So we’ve gathered some of the most important information to
help anglers across the state prepare for their days on the water.
Oh snapper, where art thou?
Finding snapper might not be rocket science, but there
is more to it than just leaving port and tying off to the first
rig you see.
Snapper will congregate around platforms in relatively shallow
water, but there are two things to remember:
1) The snapper are often fairly small around these shallow-water
rigs. Since you have to top the 16-inch mark, you probably don’t
want to go through a bunch of undersized fish to put your four-fish
2) These rigs are easily accessible, and therefore they get
So the best bet is to head for a little deeper water to find
bigger and less-pressured snapper.
Here’s a list of some of the most-productive rigs along the
Louisiana coast. The coordinates are listed as DD,MM,SS, and were
determined using WGS 84 Datum.
• West Delta 86 — This rig is accessible from Venice
or Grand Isle, although it is a shorter run from the former than
the latter. Even though it’s not exactly a shallow-water rig,
it is easily accessible and popular, so expect company.
This facility stands in about 150 feet of water, which is ideal
for snapper fishing, according to Venice Marina’s Brent Ballay.
What makes WD-86 so productive is that its eight legs provide
plenty of room for snapper to spread out, and that makes it a
little more challenging to find big snapper.
Ballay said he simply ties off to one of the legs and puts some
bait in the water, and then he waits 15 minutes or so. If he doesn’t
get a bite, or the bite remains small, he’ll move to another leg
and try again.
The 100-foot mark is a good place to begin fishing, Ballay said.
A few moments without a hit will prompt this veteran captain to
drop his baits a little farther.
West Delta 86 is located at 28*54’44”N and 89*30’41”W.
• South Timbalier 134 — Anglers looking for a little
more seclusion can make the 26-mile run from Fourchon or the 39-mile
hike from Grand Isle to sunken rigs in this snapper-filled block.
“These were rigs from the Chevron field in South Timbalier blocks
133, 134, 151, and 152,” said Different Drummer Capt. Myron Fischer.
There are three sunken rigs within a hundred yards of each other
in the block, but Fischer likes to start at ST-134 N and work
his way over the others if necessary.
There is often a buoy marking the sunken rigs, but rough seas
have been known to tear the marker away. Therefore, it’s best
to know the coordinates (28*38’56”N and 90*13’58”W) just in case.
The jumble of metal sits in about 130 feet of water and extends
50 feet above the bottom, offering big snapper ample cover.
Because of the proliferation of sharp, entangling and line-cutting
structure around the toppled rigs, Fischer said he doesn’t fish
right on top of the wreck.
“You don’t want to catch a fish inside those rigs,” he explained.
“If you hook a good one, you won’t get it out.”
So he motors about the area looking for snapper on his electronics,
then he holds his boat in place while lines are dropped.
• Ship Shoal 253 — At 48 miles from Whiskey Pass south
of Cocodrie, this is another long haul.
But getting there ensures that you will have little competition,
and the area is known to hold numbers of the real sows.
“In May, it’s full of amberjack and big snapper,” Point Cocodrie
Inn’s Chip Seeber said.
The rig that stands in the block’s 130 feet of water is two-sectioned
and L-shaped, and Seeber said he generally concentrates off the
corner of the rig’s western leg.
“You just move around, and when you see that big blob on your
fish finder, you know you’re on fish,” he explained.
But he doesn’t tie to the rig, since experience has taught him
that he’ll catch the sows away from the platform.
The coordinates for the rig are 28*23’11”N and 91*05’14”W.
• Quida Rocks (Vermilion 200) — The farther west you
go, the shallower the water gets, so anglers are forced to run
farther and farther south to find deeper water.
Vermilion 200 is about 50 miles out of Vermilion Bay’s Southwest
Pass, but it’s where New Iberia’s Dr. Darrel Elias heads his boat
when he’s after snapper.
This is a unique area for Louisiana, since the structure the
good doctor and other die-hard snapper anglers is fishing isn’t
composed of toppled rigs — it’s a series of geological formations
that dot the block under 110 feet of water.
“I don’t know what it is,” Elias said. “It’s not corals. It’s
some kind of mud lumps.”
In fact, even geologists don’t know what the formations are,
but all anglers familiar with the Quida Rocks need to know is
that snapper flock to the area.
Unlike areas in which standing or sunken rigs are the focus
of attention, Elias said current doesn’t matter around these formations.
“I just move around and look for a good show of fish on my fish
finder,” he said.
Once he finds what looks to be a group of snapper, anglers drop
lines to determine if the fish are worth pulling up.
“If they get a couple of good snapper, we’ll throw out a marker,”
Then he simply holds his boat in place while his crew yanks
sow red snapper into the boat.
To get to the rocks, set your GPS for 28*46'27"N and 92*32'87"W,
but remember that the rocks are scattered throughout the block.
• West Cameron 118 — This is another block in which the
fish-attracting structure is actually natural, known locally as
the Calcasieu Rocks.
“It’s a series of rocks or shell bottoms, and the fish hover
around there feeding,” said Capt. Jerry Thompson of the Thai Tonic.
Although getting to the block involves a 37-mile run from Government
Cut near the mouth of the Mermentau River, the water is only about
60 feet deep.
But Thompson said the Calcasieu Rocks’ reputation for holding
fish is well-known in Southwest Louisiana.
“I’ve seen snapper so thick you could almost dip them with a
net,” he said.
Savvy captains have learned how to discern hard bottom from
soft bottom on their depth finders, and that’s critical to consistently
putting fish in the box.
“The bottom is probably defined more by hardness than by the
height of it. The signal will bounce back better off the shell,”
And it’s that shell around which the hordes of snapper congregate,
looking for the buffet of baitfish living near the shells.
Don’t expect to be by yourself in Cameron 118, however.
“There will be as many as 20 boats anchored right there on the
rocks,” Thompson said.
And that’s exactly what Thompson does, once he locates fish.
To get to the Calcasieu Rocks, set your GPS for 29*07’50”N and