SNAPPER: STRATEGY or CERTAINTY? Whether it's double duty or hot dogs, captains are ready

Capt. Steve Haeusler of the charter boat First Light.

It will be all hands on deck today, as June 1 marks the opening of red snapper season.

For local charter boats, they have 26 days to catch the signature fish of the Gulf Coast, with the season ending in federal waters on June 26.

Fishermen will be able to keep two red snapper each that measure at least 16 inches in length.

While some Destin captains are developing a playbook to catch the snapper, others are biding their time. One thing's for sure, according to the captains interviewed by The Log: the big reds will be biting.

Capt. Jason Mikel, Backlash

Capt. Mikel says there's not much strategy to catching red snapper.

"Anybody can catch one, but not everybody can catch the big ones," he said.

As for where he plans to go, "Anywhere there is not a boat," he said with a smile on his face. "A place where we can catch our 15-pounders. Then go catch some other fish."

His plan is to use a 4/0 hook and "slip-lead it … and not worry about it."

"There's plenty of snapper," Mikel said.

"And I'm doubled up every day like always. Twenty-six days for sure."

Capt. Steve Haeusler, First Light ( with photo)

"I'm going to try and catch my limit every day," he said. "But I've got to see what kind of crew we have."

"We'll be gun decking on here; nobody has a plan. We'll just go for it."

Haeusler said he mostly uses live bait to try and lure that red snapper.

"Hopefully we won't have to go far," he said. But, "I'm not going to give away any secrets."

Haeusler has one trip Saturday, but said he'll probably be running two per day.

"We've got to try and make a living in 26 days."

Capt. Chuck Turbanic, Fifth Amendment

"It's going to be just long days with a lot of eight and six hour trips, six and six hours, and six and eight hours," Turbanic said.

"A lot of people come here and we have a short time to get them out," he said. "Twenty-six days of agony. And the first snapper I catch, I'm going to dedicate to Roy Crabtree."

Roy Crabtree is the Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which was instrumental in cutting the season to 26 days in federal waters.

"I've got a six hour in the morning and an eight hour in the afternoon. We're just going to go fishing," Turbanic said.

"We're going to go to a public spot first, because they are going to die quickly, and I want to get my share."

Turbanic said the fish and boats will be flying.

"It'll look like a bass tournament Saturday morning with people blasting out of the Pass," he said.

"And the first week it won't matter what you use for bait, they'll eat anything you drop down," Turbanic said.

"I believe they'd eat an Oscar Meyer hotdog right now."

Capt. Tony Davis, Anastasia

"We don't need to have a strategy," Davis said.

Most of the spots he fishes hold 12 to 15 pounders, he said. "Why do I need any strategy?"

"The only strategy I need is to get rid of Crabtree."

Davis has a 10-hour trip on the books for Saturday with a church group.

"We'll catch our snapper then go catch triggerfish," he said.

"But we don't adjust our trips to snapper," said Davis, noting that most of his trips are six-hours this time of year.

Capt. Curt Gwin, Only Way

Capt. Gwin has two trips set for Saturday, a sixer and a five hour.

"We're going to go where they live," he said.

When asked if a particular spot was the ticket, his reply was "yep" — but he wasn't giving out any coordinates.

"I like to use light tackle with cigar minnows," he said. "It's more fun on the light tackle."

Gwin will be heading out at 6 a.m.

"They'll pretty much eat anything," he said. "And we've been catching a lot lately … but not trying to. So they should be everywhere."

Capt. Chris McConnell, Destiny

"My strategy is to see where everybody else is first," McConnell said.

He'll be leaving a bit later than most of the charters.

"I have to produce a lot more snapper than most," he said, noting where most charter boats will be pulling in about 10 or 12 fish he has the opportunity to pull in as many as 110. The Destiny can carry as many as 56 passengers.

"We've been full for weeks," he said. And on opening day, the Destiny will be running an 8-hour trip. But starting Monday, "we should be doing two trips a day. With the season so short, we want to get as many double days as we can."

McConnell's plan is to target some of the steel wrecks.  

"We'll go up a size on our hooks and leaders," he said. Normally they use a 3/0 circle hook, now they string up a 4/0 and the leader will go up to 60 pounds instead of 50.

"We don't want to lose a nice fish," McConnell said.

Capt. Scott Robson, Phoenix

"I'm going to get me some live bait and go after them" was Robson's battle plan. "We'll go fish the public areas first and some natural bottom."

Robson also likes to use live bait with a 4/0 hook.

He said the snapper should be in close.

"Most everyday is two trips a day," Robson said. "Some I've got all day trips. When you get in to June and July it's all family fishing."

Robson said there are plenty of snappers in the sea, but he also said, "there are a ton of triggerfish. They are eating the bait off  the hooks on the way down."

Come Saturday afternoon and for 25 days following there should be plenty of red hanging on the racks along Destin harbor.