Beeliner or Bust

Successful Pursuit of Florida’s Other Red Snapper

Capt. Mike Genoun October 20, 2015

When glamour species such as mutton snapper and grouper aren’t biting, savvy Florida anglers target vermillion snapper. Unique to this fishery is the opportunity to consistently target a relatively deep-water snapper in open water environments. Unlike most snapper species that closely associate to exposed reef ledges and high profile structure where they thrive on a diet of crustaceans and finfish, in their constant hunt for forage vermillion snapper won’t hesitate roaming far and wide from an adjacent debris field. And while diminutive vermillion certainly won’t break any records for being the largest deep water predator, they are an aggressive schooling fish that are often easy to catch, making them ideal targets for a broad range of anglers ranging from hardcore private boaters to novice party boat passengers.

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Photo: FSF Mag

The search for the rosie rewards, which commonly substitute substantially larger red snapper on restaurant menus and behind seafood counters, generally starts in 25 to 50 fathoms, however experienced deep droppers are rarely surprised when they haul up a trio of vermilion from more than 100 fathoms. In any case, it is important that there is structure nearby. A series of sharp ledges or deepwater wrecks provide ideal habitat, yet precise positioning over such structure isn’t a matter of life or death. Actually, in this venue with so much water between you and the seafloor, you’re obviously far better off drifting across a promising area in your search for a pile of hungry fish. This means helmsmen who lack polished anchoring skills should be sure to include vermilion snapper in their bottom fishing repertoire.

Vermillion snapper have a broad range and bottom fishermen from all over the state regularly enjoy this fishery. And while many captains have worked hard to establish a black book of productive GPS coordinates, successful vermillion snapper fishing is not overly complicated.

Regarding proper rigging technique, there really isn’t much variation as the universal approach is pretty straightforward from coast to coast. With vermilion snapper, it’s all about a standard two or three hook chicken rig with branches spaced 24 inches apart on a 50 lb. trunk line. From experience, I’ll swear that it’s impossible to beat VMC #7381 4/0 SureSet circle-hooks baited with squid strips, but you can certainly experiment with fresh cut bonito or blue runner and I’m sure you’ll entice a few fish for the dinner table. Other than plying the deepest venues, a 4, 8 or 12 oz. bank sinker will be enough to keep baits in the strike zone just above the bottom, as hunting packs of vermilion won’t hesitate searching for prey dozens of feet off the floor.

Vermillion snapper have a broad range and bottom fishermen from all over the state regularly enjoy this fishery. And while many captains have worked hard to establish a black book of productive GPS coordinates, successful vermillion snapper fishing is not overly complicated. Nearly every digital and paper fishing chart reveals distinct ledges, high points and drop-offs along with the many artificial reef systems surrounding the state. Zero in on deep-water structure in the optimal depth zone outside your particular port of call and start searching there. As you comb through the area keep your eyes glued to the sounder for scratches stacked vertically just above the bottom. Once you stumble upon promising readings worthy of further investigation, establish your direction of drift and reposition upwind of the potential hot spot. Deploy your baited rigs to the bottom, lock up and crank the handle a few times to eliminate any slack line, then drop back to freespool. It’s a good idea to vary the depth of your rigs in order to cover as much of the strike zone as possible until a distinct pattern unfolds, at which point you can adjust your presentation accordingly. Once strikes are detected simply lock up, reel tight and allow the circle-hooks to do their job. On the flip side, if nothing comes knocking after 15 minutes, move on to greener pasture.

Remember that vermillion snapper are constantly on the move, so it may take a few attempts to get dialed in. When you finally find a stack of fish, don’t be overly surprised if they aren’t on the exact same line on subsequent drifts. However, if all goes well you should be able to establish a pattern based on depth and approximate distance from nearby structure.

Vermillion rarely exceed a couple of pounds in weight, however on the line they are scrappy fighters for their small stature. Two or three at a time will put up a fair tussle, but even then don’t expect to break out the fighting belt. Still, the ultimate reward here is targeting a particular species on its own turf and achieving a consistent level of success. Additionally, vermillion snapper are comparable to other snapper species and yield mild flesh ideally suited for a broad range of recipes. Go get ‘em!

Snapper Slayer
Utilizing 50 lb. leader material and 4/0 circle-hooks with a 4 to 12 oz. bank sinker, a light duty hi/lo rig is the perfect approach when targeting various snapper and bottom dwelling species.

Facts of Life: Vermillion Snapper

Similar Species: Red Snapper, Blackfin Snapper
Spawning Period: April–August
Min. Size: Atlantic – 12 in., Gulf – 10in.
Bag Limit: Atlantic – 5 per day, Gulf – 10 per day (Not included in snapper aggregate)
Florida State Record: N/A
All Tackle World Record: 7 lb. 3 oz. Mobile, AL

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