Plenty of snapper live off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Just because red snapper season has ended doesn’t mean you can’t catch other varieties of hard-fighting, delicious snapper, including lane, vermilion and gray, as part of your aggregate of 10 reef fish.
I particularly enjoy fishing for gray snapper, often called mangrove snapper or black snapper. They often can be easy to find and catch. In the June issue, I reported on using the chumsicle to catch red snapper. I’ve also learned that this technique even may be more important and more beneficial to fishermen after the closing of red snapper season.
So many red snapper are in the Gulf of Mexico right now that you’re more likely to catch red snapper than most other species. But if you can pull all the bottom feeders from the rigs and the wrecks using the chumsicle, you can be much-more selective at presenting the bait to the fish to catch the ones in season.
Catching gray snapper
On a recent trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I fished with Capt. Mike Moore for gray snapper.
“We use the chumsicle, which utilizes a 5-gallon bucket, two bricks with holes in them and a wire coat hanger,” he said. “I grind up chum, which can be anything from menhaden to the carcasses of filleted fish, pour the chum into the bucket, mix-in some menhaden oil, put the bucket in the freezer and let the chum freeze for a day or two.
“I’ll take three to five chumsicles with me and an ice chest when I go fishing.”
After Moore puts a chumsicle in the water by the boat and lets it sink to the bottom, the warm waters of the Gulf will cause the plastic bucket to release small chunks of frozen chum. Moore will pull the chumsicle up about 5 to 10 feet, every 3 to 5 minutes, to cause gray snapper to follow the chum to the surface and the back of the boat.
“We fish with 12-pound-test line and often use a No. 1/0 or a No. 2/0 hook and 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader because the gray snapper are very hook-shy and line-shy,” Moore reports.
Although many anglers cut up pieces of cigar minnows and hide their hooks inside the cigar minnows, Moore prefers to use live croakers or live shrimp. He’s learned that the gray snapper aren’t nearly as reluctant to take live bait as they are dead bait.
“Because we’ve got the gray snapper right behind or beside the boat, we can pick out and cast to the fish we want to catch,” Moore said. “Also, if a red snapper does take the bait, because it has risen in the water column slowly as the chumsicle has come-up, when we release that red snapper, it easily can swim back down without the gasses in its air bladder having to be released.
“If you just target the gray snapper, you can catch and keep 10 of them, with most weighing from 3 to 12 pounds each. But the average keeper will weigh between 5 and 8 pounds.
“If you catch a limit of gray snapper, you may go home with 50 to 80 pounds. During red snapper season, since you only can keep two fish that probably will average 8 to 12 pounds each, you’ll have 16 to 24 pounds of red snapper. Even if you catch trophy red snapper that weigh 20 pounds each, you still only will have 40 pounds of snapper.”
Moore said that if the gray snapper are reluctant to come away from a rig, he’ll back his boat up and hold just off the rig, letting the chumsicle down close to one of the corner pilings.
“I want to be on the upcurrent side of the rig when fishing for gray snapper so that as my chumsicle begins to melt, it will put a chum line all the way under the rig or the wreck that I’m fishing,” he said. “Remember, that menhaden oil in the chumsicle will attract even more fish with the smell of the oil.”
Taking bonus fish in August
Another big advantage that the chumsicle provides is the bonus fish you can catch utilizing this device. Although most cobia fishermen sight-fish, when you’re fishing reefs and wrecks, the cobia may be deep and out-of-sight. But as you lift up the chumsicle, it also will bring up the cobia.
On my last trip to the coast, we brought up an 82-pound cobia and caught it right behind the chumsicle. The chumsicle also brings up king mackerel and many other fish holding on wrecks and reefs on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
For more information, contact Moore at www.biloxifishing.com, or call 228-392-4047 or 228-334-2664.