John's Journal...

Click to enlargeHow to Catch Big Snapper

How to Set the Hook on 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, what’s one of the mistakes you see anglers make when they get their snapper up close to the surface?

Treigle: Well, I try to keep my anglers from making this mistake, but if they keep reeling their snapper until the snapper’s heads are straight-up and their tails straight-down, more than likely they’ll lose those snapper. Personally I like to lay over the rail when one of my anglers is bringing up a big snapper. Then when that fish gets close, I usually reach out and grab the fisherman’s line and pull the snapper in to me to set the snapper up to gaff it properly.

Question: What’s the most-common mistake made when gaffing a snapper?

Click to enlargeTreigle: I often made this mistake when I was younger – gaffing the snapper in the belly. When a snapper reaches the surface, the fish tends to roll one way or the other. You may be getting ready to gaff the snapper in the back, and suddenly the belly rolls to you. Instead of gaffing the fish in the belly, take the time to reach across the snapper, and gaff the fish in the back, near the head. If you gaff a big snapper in the belly, the gaff will rip off, and you’ll probably lose the fish. You’re better off to take the time you need to turn the fish to gaff it properly. I like to gaff a snapper in the back between its head and the middle of its back. That’s the thickest, meatiest part of a snapper or any other fish for that matter. If you put the gaff in that part of the fish, the gaff usually won’t pull out, and you’ll land the snapper.

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: Secrets for Catching Big Red 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 4