John's Journal...


Churning Up Snapper

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: With snapper season in high gear this summer, I've collected new and better ways to catch more and bigger snapper. And there’s plenty of good news on the Upper Gulf Coast this summer. If you look at the area Hurricane Dennis went through in July, 2005, you’ll see the resulting destruction, but not nearly as much as Hurricane Ivan caused. Many of the charter boats are still up and running, however many of the fisherman normally there at this time of the year aren’t, but you should be and here’s why. Right after a major disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, like Hurricane Dennis, bottom feeders like snapper and grouper migrate. If history repeats itself, the Alabama/Mississippi Gulf Coast would have a tremendous influx of grouper and the Florida Panhandle, including the Destin and Panama City area, should have a huge influx in snapper. Right now, you have a window of opportunity to travel to the Upper Gulf Coast and catch more and bigger snapper than ever before.

Click to enlargeFor anglers who like to fish with fresh chum better than frozen chum, there’s a way to get fresh chum into the water without the mess and bother of having to cut up or carry a large amount of chum with you. Let's look at how one of Mississippi's well-known snapper fishermen catches snapper and how he churns them up. Bobby Williams of Biloxi has a secret tactic for catching snapper that may surprise you. But first, let's take a look at Williams's more-traditional rigging techniques. "I fish live coral bottom near the Sulfur Mines, a group of oil platforms out in the Gulf," says Williams, who uses 40-pound-test main line on a 330 GTI or a 4/0 Penn reel and a Penn International stand-up rod.

Up the main line, Williams puts a 2- to 4-ounce egg-shaped slip sinker. The water's current dictates the weight of Williams's lead. On the main line, he uses a black barrel swivel. Coming from the barrel swivel, Williams’s ties on a 3- to 6-foot-long leader from 20-pound test up to 60-pound test.

Click to enlarge"If the snapper bite aggressively, I'll use a 60-pound test, 3-foot leader," Williams explains. "If the snapper don't seem to want to bite, I'll take the 60-pound test off and put on 6 feet of 20-pound-test leader. Although extremely light, the 20-pound-test leader will lure snapper to bite. You have to first get a fish to bite to catch it. If the snapper won't bite heavy leader, then using a smaller leader may help you get a bite." At the end of the leader, Williams ties a No. 3/0 or a No. 4/0 hook. For bait, Williams chooses live croakers, live pinfish or dead cigar minnows. "I either hook my live bait through the end of its tail or through the front of its eyes to get the most strikes," Williams reported.

After baiting his rig, Williams prepares to catch snapper as deep as 170 feet or as shallow as 1 foot below the surface. Once Williams motors to his fishing spot, he utilizes a Chum Churn with menhaden and cigar minnows. "I use a Chum Churn that grinds up fish and puts the chum out under the water," Williams advised. "I start chumming as soon as I get to a spot, even before I start fishing it." Besides menhaden and cigar minnows, Williams adds some special ingredients to his chum as he said, "I'll boil macaroni the day before I go fishing. After I thoroughly cook the macaroni, I'll add a can or two of tuna fish packed in oil. I'll also add some menhaden oil and let this Click to enlargemixture sit overnight. As I grind up the baitfish in the Chum Churn, I'll add the macaroni and tuna fish mix to create a stronger odor and a larger chum line. The macaroni holds the oil better than the meat does, and it releases the oil when it goes out in the chum and puts an oil slick on the surface." By using this secret chum mixture, Williams has brought giant snapper right up to the stern of his boat. "I've found that I'll usually catch snapper weighing 18-to-25 pounds each right near the surface, feeding on the chum. In an average trip, my fishermen usually will catch six to eight fish of this size.”

For more information on Chum Churn, visit To learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast and fishing in Biloxi, go to


Check back each day this week for more about BETTER SNAPPER STRATEGIES

Day 1: Catching Black Snapper and Chumming
Day 2: Churning Up Snapper
Day 3: Using Diamonds to Catch Snapper and Locating Reefs
Day 4: More and Bigger Snapper Drift Lining
Day 5: How to Rig for Drift Lining



Entry 309, Day 2