Georgia Red Snapper: The Best of Bottom Fishing
I have been in Charter Fishing for many years. As a Georgia charter fishing guide making more than 15 trips each season to Georgia’s 40-mile bottom line (aka Brunswick Snapper Banks) for the past 15 years, this spring 2009 season proves much better than years past. For the large red snapper (mule).
After an hour of 4-stroke outboards buzz in our 31 Contender, we approached the R-5 Navy Tower 34 miles from the beaches of St. Simons Island off the Georgia coast. We stopped close enough to check the bait around the legs of the tower. Thousands of peanut cigar minnows circled the legs of the north tower, allowing easy bait for our crew, so we collected 50 or more and headed east toward the Snapper Banks.
Anyone who reads my articles knows that I am a multi-purpose bottom fisherman. After all the great bottom I’ve fished, this day would be different. Marks in the range of color like you’ve never seen. The bottom literally “exploded as we stopped at our destination and zeroed. The entire team stared in amazement at the scope of the color as if we were possessed. A hidden photo shoot would have been priceless as we all stared at each other. the lower machine with its mouth open in deathly silence. Finally, I broke the trance. “Man, this is going to be ugly!”
This mark was at a 10 foot. ledge on Brunswick Snapper Banks and for whatever reason this ledge always tends to hold more fish than any other in the area and is not a secret number. It’s on any chart you collect from the Georgia DNR. This intense mark rose 45 feet. from the bottom. It was a textbook. The “red fire truck” brand was stacked high on the vivid background in this way at an acute angle to the stream. Something that any bottom fisherman looks for on any day of fishing.
After a hasty ruckus to get the rigging snagged, we zoomed in again and settled perfectly on top of the mark at 117 feet. The first fall to the bottom did not make it. At approximately 100 feet, The Ugly Stik 30-60 Rod jumped overboard and pinned our client to the stern of the Contender. “Fish in!” It was all he could manage to grunt as we all screamed for him to wobble, wobble, wobble. Keep your rod up! The seemingly long but brutal battle produced a 30 inch red snapper for our first fish of the day. That beauty …
While photographing the fish and the fisherman, another scream and shuffling feet told me that another Snapper had pinned someone to the side of the boat. This round was won by an angler who threw a Gag Grouper around 17 pounds after a furious fight on a lighter rod that we had originally rigged for the Vermilion Snapper. I don’t know how the 3/0 lightweight wire hook didn’t bend or break under the pressure of the deep-sea grouper, but she held and the fisherman landed the fish.
I fish with my reels locked almost as tight as drag. When hooking up with a large bottom fish, you don’t want any line to come off your reel. Block those shooters hard, keep your rod up and hold on! It’s you and him face to face, no problem.
After that grouper we decided it would be best to swap all the rods mounted for the Vermilion Snapper as the leader weighed 60lbs and the hooks were 3/0 medium. I didn’t want to risk losing a Big Mule or Giant Jaw so we rode a 100 pound monkey leader and bigger hooks.
“A Georgia Red Snapper boundary”
We had a legal limit on Mule Red Snapper in no time and I realized that my son finally had enough. At that time we were releasing 30-inch fish. Our crew begged those big mule snapper to stop biting! After a total of 18, the tide turned and the vermilion snapper bite was on. The crew were relieved when their poles were bent only half as much as they had been with the Mules.
Obviously, a Vermilion Snapper cap wasn’t going to be a problem, but as each three-pound “bee-liner” came on deck it got quieter, until finally my crew got tired of fishing that day. There is a sense of satisfaction when everyone agrees that their arms and back just can’t work well enough to catch another fish! I don’t see this as a problem. I see it as a mission accomplished …
You don’t need any “special” numbers to fish Georgia’s 40-mile bottom. Go to the DNR office in Brunswick Georgia and pick up the public record, or pick up the phone and give them a call. There are plenty of good numbers marking ledges and outcrops that contain plenty of large red and vermilion snapper. This season has simply been a “stellar” year for bottom fishing and these rings hold true for Savannah Georgia and many other places on the East Coast, according to reports from other Georgia fishing guides and fishing boats.
If you have not done bottom fishing and would like to learn, there are a few things you should know. First, the fish must be of legal size. Depending on the state it is in, it is usually 20 inches. Make sure to check your baggage limit as well. In Georgia, it is (2) red snapper per angler. Florida rules are different and the seasons also apply in certain areas.
The deep-sea groundfish release process is critical. When you release a fish that is small or over the limit, you should deflate the fish’s air bladder to allow it to safely return to the bottom. Otherwise it will normally float to the surface and eventually die. There are small tools called “deflators” or “vent tools.” Learn where and how to properly ventilate groundfish for release. There are many articles on the Internet about groundfish ventilation procedures.
When you’re throwing big deep-sea fish, you need a big bat to hit with. There is no better bottom fishing rod than an Ugly Stik in my book. Here is my platform for Mules.
– Ugly Stik 30-60 or 40-80 rod
– Senator high speed Penn 4/0 reel loaded with 80 pound braided line.
– Redfishone 9/0 circle hook
– 6 feet. 100-pound Leader monofilament
– 12 oz. Bank leader
– 90 pound snap-in swivel
You can use the same rod and reel for Vermilion Snapper, but you can change your end rig a bit. Use a 60 pound mono leader and (2) 5/0 circle hooks. Some anglers use one hook tackle, myself included, but if they bite right and you are not about to run out, use 2 hooks to produce a large quantity of fish.
If the fish are picky we will ride with a single 3/0 straight hook so you can set the hook instead of relying on the circle hook to do the job for me. When it comes to hooks and their styles and sizes for each fish, it is a personal preference once you have learned the game, so choose your poison.
Your best bet for bait is live Spanish sardines, but many anglers can’t afford to catch 50 sardines before a trip. Frozen sardines, Boston mackerel, and whole squid can be purchased the day before your trip. Additionally, many anglers use deer tail jigs and other lures to lure Snapper and Grouper to the hook.
Whatever you choose, take your kids fishing. They are the future of sport. Narrow lines and good fishing for everyone!