Area captains say red snapper season has been good for business and bites

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

With red snapper season winding down, area captains say it’s been a good run with a few bumps along the way. 

“It’s been a good season,” said Capt. Chris McConnell of the charter boat Au Sum. “We’ve ran every day except for a couple around the storm. The last day the boat sat at the dock was June 27."

As for the fish, McConnell said “fishing has been decent,” noting they’ve had some issues with sharks. 

“I’ve never seen it like it is now,” McConnell said of sharks stealing their fish. 

The head was all that was left of this red snapper caught on the Bow'd Up in late June. The Bow'd Up had several red snapper on the racks, but deckhand Jan-Michael Garcia said they lost about three snapper to every snapper they had on the racks that day to sharks.

Capt. Tommy Carter of the Blue Runner II agreed about the shark thieves. 

“Snapper season has been good, but more troublesome,” Carter said, who’s been fishing out of Destin for more than three decades. 

“We’ve been losing a lot of good fish to sharks,” he said, noting it’s the worst he’s seen. 

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“But we’re still catching fish and we’ve been super busy. We’ve had to turn down trips,” Carter said. 

For area charter boats with a federal permit, red snapper season started June 1 and wraps up Aug. 3 at 12:01 a.m. 

This group of anglers on the Bow'd Up with Capt. Brady Bowman came in on June 29 with a huge catch of red snapper. However, they lost a lot of snapper to sharks that day. They managed to pull in just the head of one snapper after it was snipped by a shark.

The majority of the charter boats have run every day and some twice a day. 

“It’s been like Groundhog Day,” said Capt. Justin Destin of the Un Reel, who was waiting for his customers to board for his second trip of the day last week. 

Destin was referring to the movie where every day was the same. However, Destin wasn't complaining. 

More about fishing in the area:Fish Flash: Fishing between the rain can be productive

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“It’s been good and there's plenty of snapper … as many as you want to waggle with,” he said. 

Capt. Chip Godwin of the Sea Fix said “it’s been really productive, up until last week. The fish are not as aggressive as they were” the first 40-plus days or so. 

“But we’ve been crushing it,” Godwin said, noting they’ve only had one to two days off since the snapper season kicked in. 

Troy Cox of New Orleans shows off a 20-plus-pound red snapper he caught July 13 aboard the Sea Fix with Capt. Chip Godwin and Capt. Aaron Smith.

“We’ve been averaging 12 hours a day,” he said, noting that could be two six-hour trips or a four- and an eight-hour trip. 

Capt. Travis Ream, in his fifth season on the Kitchen Pass, said business has been great. 

“I’ve been pre-booked two weeks out during the season,” Ream said, noting that when July started, he only had two days open. And right now, his book is full until Aug. 7. 

Capt. Phillip Blackburn of the Backdown 2 said he has been overbooked. 

Photos:Opening day for red snapper

“We’ve been having to turn people down or send them somewhere else,” Blackburn said. “Business has been awesome.” 

As for the fish, “it’s been good. Fishing is getting tougher. The big ones got caught up, or they are wiser,” Blackburn said with a smile on his face. 

Local angler Tom Milliren shows off a big red snapper he caught aboard the Kitchen Pass. He weighed it in at the Summer Slam at the Boathouse.

Lindley Staples Ward, who owns the charter boat Mighty Fine and takes care of bookings for the boat, said, “snapper season has been great … it’s been long. 

“We’re thankful for an awesome push of fish. But we’re looking forward to it winding down,” she said. 

The last day for anglers to catch a red snapper aboard a federally permitted boat, which is the majority of the charter fleet, is Aug. 3, by 12:01 a.m. 

For the recreational anglers, snapper season comes to a close July 29.