John's Journal...

Click to enlargeHow to Catch Big Snapper

Where to Fish for Big Red Snapper

EDITOR’S NOTE: While at the Red Snapper World Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama, that runs from April 21, 2006 – May 21, 2006, I talked and fished with Dennis Treigle, the first mate of the “Shady Lady” charter boat, captained by Butch Tucker and based at Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach. Treigle probably could have been anything he wanted to be. With degrees in biology and nursing and as a former high-school teacher who also considered becoming a marine biologist, Treigle of Pensacola, Florida, is a renaissance man who has chosen fishing as his profession. According to Treigle, “I’d spent some time in Mississippi years ago working with marine biologists there. One of my professors told me that if I wanted to be a marine biologist I should plan to be poor. I decided I didn’t want to be broke the rest of my life, and I also didn’t want to sit around and do paperwork. I wanted to fish, be with fishermen and be on the water. I love working with different people daily. Therefore, being the first mate on the ‘Shady Lady’ for the past five years has been the perfect job for me. After teaching high-school students for four years, I feel like I’m a better deckhand. I know how to teach people to catch big snapper. Teaching also has taught me how to communicate better and how to coach people to catch big snapper. Most people know how to catch fish, but there are some fine points I can teach as the first mate that helps them be more successful – especially with folks who’ve never fished previously.”

Click to enlargeQuestion: Dennis, most people consider red snapper a bottom feeder. But you encourage your clients on the “Shady Lady” to fish well up off the bottom. Why?

Treigle: Big snapper are predators, and they won’t remain in close to a reef. They’re not afraid of anything but a shark. The red snapper swim on the outside of the reef, searching for baitfish to eat. You’ll catch big red snapper right on the bottom. But we often locate big red snapper holding way up in the water column. On a 130-foot bottom, we’ve taken plenty of large red snapper only 30 feet below the surface.

Question: Dennis, how do you get your anglers to fish high in the water, instead of letting their baits go all the way to the bottom?

Treigle: I explain to our fishermen that the higher we can hook our snapper in the water, the better our chances will be for landing these red snapper, and the less likely the fish will be to run into the reef or the wreck. Now, if a porpoise shows up, the porpoise will run the snapper down to the bottom. We’ve watched over and over again that when we catch undersized red snapper and throw them overboard then if a porpoise comes up and eats those small red snapper, the other red snapper will go to the bottom or hold tight to the wreck. If a porpoise shows up around your boat, generally the red snapper bite will shut down.

Click to enlargeQuestion: So, what do you tell your anglers to get them to fish high in the water?

Treigle: I tell them to let their leads and baits drop and count from 1001 to 1006, which is about 6 seconds, and then stop their baits and engage their reels. After we’ve fished at that depth for 5 to 10 minutes, if we don’t get any bites, then I ask them to let their leads fall for 2-more seconds, stop their lines and engage their reels. If we still don’t get any bites, I suggest they let their leads fall all the way to the bottom before reeling up four or five turns off the bottom. Once we start catching snapper and bringing them up to the boat, the snapper will move up higher in the water column, and we’ll then catch them closer to the surface. I’ve seen snapper so high in the water before that their tail fins almost will be out of the water. But that doesn’t usually happen until later in the summer. The main thing to remember is to fish as high in the water as you can get a bite. The further away from the bottom you can catch the snapper, the more of a cushion you have to keep the snapper out of the wreck or the reef. Remember, I said that snapper are predator fish that don’t generally stay in a reef. And, that’s true – until those snapper get hooked. But often when hooked, the snapper will dive down into the wreck or the reef and cut you off.

Click to enlargeFor more information on fishing with the “Shady Lady,” you can call Captain Butch Tucker at (850) 380-3321 or write him at To learn more about the Red Snapper World Championship (you can participate for $5 per day), which has a guaranteed payout of $155,000 plus a $500,000 prize for a new world’s record snapper and a new truck for a new state record snapper, you can call (251) 981-6539 or go to For accommodations, restaurants and attractions, call the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 745-7263 or visit

Tomorrow: How to Set the Hook on Snapper

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Catch Big Snapper"

Day 1: How to Get Big Red Snapper to Bite
Day 2: Where to Fish for Big Red Snapper
Day 3: How to Set the Hook on Snapper
Day 4: Don’t Stand the Snapper Straight Up
Day 5: Secrets for Catching Big Red Snapper


Entry 351, Day 2