ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA RED SNAPPER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
How To Catch A Really Big Red Snapper
Note: This last week of the Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship,
which began April 21st and runs through May 20th, means some angler will
take home $25,000 for first place, all the way down through $1,000 for
20th place, simply by paying a $5/day entry fee. If someone catches a
new Alabama state record snapper, the angler will win a brand-new, 4-wheel-drive
Nissan Titan pickup truck. If a new world's record is set, the angler
will win $200,000. The boats entered in the tournament pay $400 each,
and then the winning boat gets the same amount of cash prizes as the winning
angler. There's heavy competition to catch really-big red snapper. However,
even when the tournament ends, anglers out of the port of Orange Beach,
Alabama, regularly catch 20-pound-plus red snapper. To learn more about
why there are so many red snapper off Alabama's Gulf Coast, I fished with
Captain Butch Tucker on the "Shady Lady," out of Zeke's Marina, the tournament
Question: Captain Tucker, how do you catch a really-big
Tucker: What an angler does the first 5 to 10 seconds after the fish is
hooked is critical to catching a really-big snapper. You have to apply
enough force to the rod and the line to move that big snapper away from
the wreck or the reef in that first 5 to 10 seconds. If you don't get
it away from that wreck in those first few seconds, those snapper will
dive into the wreck and cut your line off.
Question: How many snapper, 20 pounds or more, will you
catch in a season?
Tucker: That depends on many different elements. Last week, on one trip
we brought in 10 snapper that weighed more than 20-pounds each. On another
trip that same week, we brought in 20 snapper that weighed over 20-pounds
each. But those two were unusual trips. Recently, we had two fish that
weighed more than 20-pounds each. The skill of the anglers you have on
board, the wind and weather conditions and luck all are factors in how
many big snapper you can catch in a day of fishing.
To win a red snapper tournament, where would you go, and how would you
Tucker: Winning a tournament is sheer luck. Catching the biggest snapper
in the tournament is much like trying to take the biggest buck on a deer
lease. That biggest buck will show up when and where you least expect
him. Over the years, I've learned that often the biggest snapper will
come off an artificial reef and will be the only snapper you catch on
that particular reef. We talked to some scuba divers who dive on oil rigs
out in the Gulf. They've seen some 40-pound red snapper inside the steel
legs of the rigs before, but those snapper won't come out of those legs
to feed. Those big snapper have learned if they stay inside the structure
they won't get caught. Those big snapper are smart, and you have to fool
them to catch them.
Question: What is the biggest snapper you have ever put
on your boat?
Tucker: When I was commercial fishing, I caught a snapper that weighed
more than 40 pounds. Years ago, in the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo,
we caught a snapper that weighed 36 pounds and 13 ounces.
Question: What are the chances of a fisherman who pays
$5 to enter the Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship winning the
Tucker: His chances are as good anyone. Right now, we have three of the
anglers who have fished with us on the "Shady Lady" who could win $1,000
or more. Our highest-placed finisher is Chris Hart with a snapper that
weighed 27 pounds and 9 ounces. He's in fourth place right now, and if
the tournament ended today he would win $6,000.
Besides snapper, what other species of fish do you catch when you fish
out of Orange Beach?
Tucker: We catch eight different species of snapper, triggerfish, four
or five species of grouper, king mackerel, wahoo, cobia, Maui-Maui (dolphin)
Question: If you had to pick three baits that should
produce a big red snapper, what three would you pick?
Tucker: First would be butterflied vermilion snapper. (To butterfly fish,
a cut is made at the tail of the fish, and the knife is slid forward to
the head of the fish, leaving the filet still attached to the head. Then
the fish is turned over. Another cut is made from the tail to the head
of the fish, and the backbone is removed. The hook is placed in the nose
of the fish, and the two filets still attached to the head resemble the
wings of a butterfly.) My second bait would be a large strip bait, like
a filet of a bonita. Third would be a large live bait, like a blue runner
or a vermilion snapper. Remember that elephants eat peanuts, and on some
days, big snapper will eat small baits like a piece of squid or a cut
piece of northern mackerel.
Question: When are your chances best for catching a big
Tucker: You can hook a big snapper any time you fish out of the port of
Orange Beach, Alabama, but your best chances of catching a big snapper
are the end of June through August. As the water warms up, the big snapper
will start to suspend up off the water, and when the snapper are higher
up in the water during the hot months, they are less likely to get back
into the wreck or reef and cut your line. One of the biggest fish in the
tournament this year has been caught by an angler who fished high-up off
the bottom, actually fishing for amberjack. The only way to catch a big
snapper is to be in Orange Beach on a charter boat with your line in the
Question: Most people think big snapper stay mainly in
really-deep water three or four hours from port. Is that true?
Tucker: Not at all. The Alabama State record, a 44-pound red snapper,
was caught 9-miles off the beach on a public sunken ship "Liberty" that
the State of Alabama had sunk.
How did the State of Alabama get so many wrecks and reefs to create so
much habitat for the red snapper?
Tucker: During World War II, Barren Field, in Pensacola Naval Base in
nearby Pensacola, Florida, trained pilots. Those pilots often crashed
into the Gulf of Mexico. I know of 58 airplane wrecks right now that I
fish that probably date back to the 1940s when pilots trained down here.
We have all kinds of planes sunk here. Too, beginning in the 1950s, the
State of Alabama and the fishermen of Orange Beach began to start seeking
wrecks to make reefs.
To learn more about fishing and the other sites to see
at Orange Beach, contact the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors
Bureau at (800) 745-7263 or visit www.orangebeach.com.
For charter information, contact Zeke's Marina (800) 793-4044 or visit
To fish with Captain Butch Tucker and first mate, Dennis Treigle on the
"Shady Lady," call Captain Tucker at (850) 492-9675 or (850) 380-3321.
For more information about the World Red Snapper Championship, check out
For places to stay, contact Kaiser Realty at (251) 968-6868 or go to www.kaiserrealty.com.
TOMORROW: SNAPPER FISHING WITH DENNIS TREIGLE