Red snapper season a bonus for fishermen, captains and waterfront workers
Whether they are here for red snapper season or not, the bright red signature fish is definitely a perk for the many people who visit Destin this time of year as well as those who work on the waterfront.
Red snapper season opened June 1 for federal for-hire boats, which is the majority of the Destin charter fleet. The federal for-hire charters will have 79 days this year to snag a snapper, which is the longest season in more than a decade.
Wednesday morning the docks emptied out only to fill back up throughout the day with catch after catch of red snapper.
John Brashears of For Reel Photos, who snaps souvenir photos of anglers with their catches on the docks, said he started his day on the docks at 10:30 a.m. and snapped his last photo at 8:10 p.m. on opening day.
“It was my best day this year,” Brashears said.
More fishing news:Fish Flash: Fishing before the opening of red snapper in Destin
Brashears said he struggled through the spring shooting only 10 to 15 photos a day of catches. But on the opening day of snapper season, he fired off 35 photos.
“Got to have it,” he said of the snapper days.
Day 2 was shaping up to be better than Day 1, Brashears said.
And bookings for the boats are filling up.
“We’re booked solid,” said Lindley Staples Ward, owner of Mighty Fine Charters, noting they have a lot of long 8-, 10- and 12-hour trips on the books.
“I’ve got one more afternoon open,” she said.
The Mighty Fine with Capt. Ben O’Connor at the helm came in on Day 2 of snapper season with a big catch of snapper and a red grouper.
“We were shooting for it (red snapper season),” said James Taylor of Tennessee, when they booked the trip.
Brent Hopper of Austin, Texas, and his family and friends said they “absolutely” booked their trip around snapper days.
“Last year was our first and we fell in love with Travis. We had to come back,” Hopper said.
The Hopper’s were fishing with Capt. Travis Ream on the Kitchen Pass and had no problem catching red snapper. They also reeled in a few grouper, scamp and black snapper.
For David Brinkman of Atlanta, Georgia, they were just here on vacation and ready to go fishing.
“It wasn’t planned … we just got in on the red snapper,” Brinkman said as he watched the deckhand aboard the Un Reel clean up their catch of snapper.
“He put us on the fish every time … it was a fun experience,” Brinkman said of his time aboard the Un Reel with Capt. Justin Destin.
Destin said it’s been busy the last few days with the opening of snapper and the bite on Day 2 was good.
“Somedays you’re the bug and somedays you’re the windshield … today we were the windshield,” Destin said with a smile on his face.
Tracy and Diane Moore of Denver City, Texas, said they planned their vacation first and wanted to fish and it just happened to fall on the opening of red snapper.
“And we killed them,” Tracy said. They were fishing aboard the Only Way with Capt. Pat Meyers. They pulled in some big snapper, one weighing close to 20 pounds.
“It was slick calm like grandma’s lake out there today,” Meyers said.
“It’s nice to get some revenge on (the snapper),” he said after driving around them for months and saving those fishing spots for the season.
Capt. Tommy Carter on the Blue Runner II came in with a limit of the signature red snapper, which is two per angler, and a king mackerel.
Jim Rutenbar of Pennsylvania, who was aboard the Blue Runner II, said “It was sheer luck that we timed it for snapper.” Rutenbar said he was in Destin about 20 years ago and was able to fish for red snapper then as well.
Capt. Steve Regan of the Wahoo II said his bookings are “looking good and are definitely picking up.”
When customers call, however, they are mostly looking just to go fishing, Regan said.
“But when you tell them snappers are biting, that just enhances it. And it’s epic fishing right now … no problem hooking a snapper,” Regan said.
While most charter boats are booking up quickly a few are getting cancellations.
Capt. Phillip Blackburn of the Backdown 2 said he’s received a few cancellations and has heard of other boats getting cancelled as well. He said he wasn’t sure if it was due to illness, flights being cancelled or what, but he does still have a few openings on his reservation book.
Red snapper season for federal-for-hire boats goes until Aug. 19.
The recreational season for those fishing in state waters, which is from shore out nine nautical miles, begins June 17 and runs to July 31. They will also have a 12-day fall season, which will allow snapper fishing on Oct. 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23. Snapper fishing will also be legal over Veteran’s Day weekend, Nov. 11-13 and Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 25-27.