DESTIN — With the opening of red snapper season this Friday, local charter boat captains are booking up for what looks to be a red-hot season.
“My June has a couple of afternoons open. Other than that, it’s pretty full,” said Capt. Kyle Lowe of the charter boat Special K.
And the reason for the almost full calendar: red snapper.
Red snapper season for federally permitted boats, which is the majority of Destin’s fishing fleet, runs from June 1-July 22, or a 51 days.
“A lot of your repeats that come with you the first time, they ask when is snapper open and then they plan accordingly the next year ... and they call early,” Lowe said.
As a matter of fact, Lowe said his customers who fished with him June 1 last year for the opening of red snapper made a reservation that day to fish with him on the opening day of this year's red snapper season.
Capt. Rusty Gilbert of the Mary Lou said his calendar also is starting to fill up.
“A lot of the June trips are asking about snapper,” Gilbert said. “It seems like it’s going to be a pretty good.
“Only time will tell. After the first week of June we’ll know better," he added. "But I think it’s going to be good. There are plenty of snapper around.”
Lowe said there is evidence pointing to a strong season this year.
“I’ll be shocked if it’s not very good,” Lowe said. “It seems like a lot of snapper have moved in this year ... a lot more around than last year. And a pretty good grade of fish."
Capt. Nick Price of the party boat Swoop agrees with the grade of fish.
“There are a lot of decent-size snapper out there,” Price said. “A couple of years ago we ran into a lot of small ones. But this year we should get into some big ones.”
Fishermen looking to hop a party boat for a catch of snapper should call soon.
“Trips are booking up really quick,” Price said. “If they want to get in on those early June trips, they need to be calling and calling soon.”
And party boats catch snapper. “We catch it all,” Price said.
As far as catching the snapper, it shouldn’t be a problem.
“If somebody has a hard time catching them, they don’t need to be fishing,” said Capt. Tony Davis of the Anastasia, who noted that snapper is one of the easiest fish to catch, unlike the amberjack or triggerfish.
And there are plenty of them to be had.
Davis said one of his charters last week threw back more than 100 red snapper, and they weren’t even fishing for them. And some of them were in the 12- to 15-pound range.
The minimum size for red snapper is 16 inches, and there is a two-fish limit per person.
"There’s a lot of snapper out there,” said Capt. Eric Thrasher of the Game On. “Don’t know about how many big ones, but there’s a lot of fish.”