FISH FLASH: Red snapper season off to a good start

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

If June 1 is any indication of what the 2020 red snapper season is going to be like, things are looking up for the fishing community.

Upon arrival at the docks around 11:30 a.m. Monday, 85 percent of the slips were empty, which meant folks were fishing.

For the past couple of months, the majority of the fleet has sat at the docks due to people “sheltering in place” because of COVID-19 and not visiting our area to fish.

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But today is a new day. Sure COVID-19 is still lingering, but folks for the most part seem to be social distancing and the big party boats that can take up to 60 to 90 people are doing their part to keep the anglers safe by cutting back on their occupancy.

As a matter of fact, the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit party boat, which can take up to 90 passengers, is only going at half capacity or less.

“We’re social distancing,” said captain and owner Jim Westbrook.

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On their first trip Monday they only took 40 people so they could space out six-feet apart. They had 45 people on the books for the afternoon trip.

On the first trip, the folks that went loaded up on the fish. They brought in a wall of red — from red snapper to red mingo. They also had a king mackerel and barracuda in the mix.

Capt. Jim Green, who was running the Spirit on Monday, said the “snapper were chewing.”

And he wasn’t the only captain that said the snapper fishing was good.

“It was easy fishing,” said Capt. Chris Kirby of the Backlash, noting the fish were hungry.

After all, as dock photographer Jake Brashears of For Reel Photos quickly reminded me, it’s been 305 days since we’ve seen a red snapper on the racks ... so I guess the snapper are hungry.

"It felt good to get back out there,“ said Capt. Steve Regan of the Wahoo. And the bite was good. He and his anglers from Ohio pulled in a good catch of red snapper along with a scamp and grouper.

“It was hot and heavy. We gott’em real quick,” said Capt. Matthew Champion of the ChampionShip. He and his group were back at the docks by noon with a rack full of red snapper, mingo and lane snapper.

Champion said he’s booked the rest of the month and actually booked a couple of trips while he was on the water Monday morning.

Capt. Alex Hare took a group of locals along with David and Austin Skinner from Tennessee out Monday morning on the Silver King. They pulled in a pair of grouper, red snapper, black snapper and an Almaco Jack. The father and son said they have been fishing with the Silver King for the past 15 years and always try to get in on opening day of snapper season.

The limit on red snapper is two per angler and they must measure 16 inches to keep.

Minnesota anglers on the Just-B-Cause with Capt. Ken Bolden came in from a six-hour trip Monday with their limit of red snapper.

“There’s lots of them to be had,” Bolden said. “They are hungry, hungry.”

Capt. Jimmy Miles on the Miss Nautica came in with a big catch of snapper. In addition to their snapper they had a couple of big king mackerel, mingo and white snapper.

Miles said they had to fight through the triggerfish to get to the snapper.

Capt. Bud Miller on the Mighty Fine and his group from Georgia came in with a mighty fine catch of red snapper, lane snapper, mingo and white snapper. The group of young men from Cummings, Georgia, were treated to the fishing trip after missing out on their graduation.

As for the fishing, Miller said it was a little tough for him.

“I had to find them after trying to stay away from them for almost a year,” Miller said.

Snapper season ended the first of August last year. This year the dates for red snapper for the federally permitted boats, which are the majority of the charter fleet, goes from June 1 through Aug. 1.

Capt. Paul Cox on the Fish N Teem took a group of locals and their friends from Alabama out for a snapper trip. They managed to get their snapper and a few amberine. However, they did lose a few snapper to the shark.

Tennessee anglers on the Destination with Capt. Stan Phillips had a big day. They got their red snapper, grouper, a couple of lane snapper and amberine.

“It was good, good fishing,” Phillips said.

“It was good to catch something else,” said Capt. Phillip Blackburn of the Backdown 2. His group pulled in a some huge red snapper, grouper and a red grouper.

Anglers on the Outta Line with Capt. Trey Windes pulled in their share of red snapper, mingo, grouper and scamp.

Texas anglers on the Al-Lin with Capt. Harold Staples got their red snapper, plus a grouper, black snapper and a few amberine.

Ohio anglers on the Un Reel with Capt. Justin Destin backed in with some big red snapper, a gag grouper and five scamp.

His group said they weren’t necessarily in Destin just to go snapper fishing.

“It was just the luck of the draw,” one of the guys said. But they were happy to get in on opening day.

This is just some of the boats that made it back by 2 o’clock on Monday. Some of the boats had second trips and some had longer trips, not coming in until 4 or 6 p.m.

Needless to say, the bite is good. Book a trip and drop a line.

See you on the docks.