Capt. Robert Earl McDaniel didn’t hesitate when asked his opinion of the opening week of the red snapper season.
“Oh my goodness, yessir, it’s great,” said McDaniel who operates Whipasnapa Charters out of Biloxi. “The weather’s been great and the two days I’ve had snapper charters (since season opened June 1) have been perfect.
“Apparently, the recreational fishermen who have only the 10-day season must have taken vacation this week so they could get all they could get, because the two weekdays I’ve been out there, there’s been a lot of those private boats out there. I don’t blame them, I’d be getting all I could get, too, with that short a season.”
The weather has cooperated, allowing boats of all sizes to make the offshore run.
The 10-day recreational season ends June 10 (actually 12:01 a.m. June 11), but licensed “for hire” charter boats like the Whipasnapa will have a 44-day window of opportunity ending in mid July.
“The red snapper are out there, and it doesn’t take long to get the limit,” McDaniel said. “My clients are limited to two per day, but after we fill that we go get some mangrove (gray) and vermillion snappers.
“Today, for instance, we had a big group and we hit a couple of stops on the way out to get a bunch of grays and vermillion before going on out to the deeper rigs in 120 to 150 feet of water. I got a line of rigs out there that I like to run. Today, on the first rig, we pulled up a limit in no time really. They averaged over 15 pounds with the biggest ones at 19½ and 20 pounds. We hooked up a few of the bigger sows on the bottom, but the fishermen never turned them.”
On his first snapper trip, McDaniel had a quick day.
“I had these three boys who partied a bit too hard the night before and were feeling a little rough,” he said. “That morning they said they wanted the first place we could go and get a limit so I went to these wrecks in about 70 feet of water about 8 miles south of Horn Island. We caught the six-fish limit averaging 10 pounds in like 20 minutes.”
McDaniel had his best bites Friday on cut fresh Spanish mackerel.
“We caught a few on the way out and what I do is cut the heads and tails off, then cut right down the center of the fish to make two baits,” he said. “The big sows like those Spanish a lot.”
Gene Clements of Biloxi has taken his private boat to the rigs four times this week and has limited on all trips.
“We’ve had four on the boat every trip and getting our 8-fish limit of red snapper has been no problem,” he said. “We had been fishing wrecks but on Thursday we went to the deeper rigs and man those big sows are out there. We caught one that weighed 35 pounds and lost some that had to be bigger than that. We threw back everything under 15 or 16 pounds and we limited. That ought to tell you something.”
One thing it tells Clements is that the federal fish counters and their population estimates for red snapper in the Gulf are way wrong.
“This 10-day season is absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “There’s more red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico now than there were 20 years ago; I truly believe that.
“We had a hard time fishing through small fish at 80 to 90 feet Thursday to get to the big sows on the bottom in 125. Those small fish were like 10 to 12 pounds.”