Robert Draper of Mobile, Alabama, never thought he'd catch one of the biggest snapper he'd ever seen when he went out on a 6-hour charter with Captain Troy Frady of Distraction Charters (www.distractioncharters.com
, 251-975-8111) docked at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Ala. "We were fishing when Robert's rod began to bow-up, and started slipping," Frady says. "At first we thought he might have a shark or a cobia on the line, but as the fish came-up, we saw a big patch of bright red, the size of a stop sign." Draper's snapper weighed just over 30 pounds, a huge red snapper.
Anglers have landed giant red snapper weighing 18 pounds or more on boats fishing daily out of Orange Beach during red snapper season this year. Fishermen from the Orange Beach Fishing Association (OBFA) report that the average-sized red snapper weighs from 8 to 12 pounds, and an 18- to a 29-pound red snapper isn't uncommon. This red snapper season is special, because the red snapper are caught during 4- and 6-hour trips. In the past, anglers had to charter 10-hour-or-longer trips to reach deep waters where the giant red snapper lived. But since the snapper were hardly fished for last year, and the length limit on snapper had been increased, more big snapper are moving-in closer to shore and holding on the more than 7,000-artificial reefs on Alabama's Gulf Coast. In the past, anglers had to fish with live bait to catch big red snapper, but now these monster fish are taken on whole and half-cut dead cigar minnows.
Also unusual this season is the number of big snapper caught on party boats, like the "Zeke's Lady" (www.zekescharters.com
, 800-793-4044) docked at Zeke's Marina in Orange Beach, Ala., the "Reel Surprise" (251-981-7173, www.reelsurprisecharters.com
) based out of SanRoc Cay Marina in Orange Beach and the "Emerald Spirit" (www.fishemeraldspirit.com
, 888-558-3889) docked at Sportsman Marina in Orange Beach. Some of the party-boat captains believe that when 20 or 30 people let-down their lines on a spot, the abundance of bait in the water creates a feeding frenzy. The bigger, more-dominant snapper are drawn to this feeding frenzy and start to attack.
Also this season, a large number of cobia are being caught by the charter boats. Cobia make a migratory run from south Florida to the Gulf of Mexico and then generally hold in Mississippi and Louisiana waters throughout the summer. The cobia then will retrace this route in the fall. However, speculation is that because of the tremendous amount of fresh water coming down the Mississippi River and the flooding in the North, the salinity in the water may not be as high on Louisiana and Mississippi's Gulf Coast as it has been in past years. These events may have caused large numbers of cobia to move-off Alabama's Gulf Coast and the high number of cobia to be caught around the 90 tanks deployed and sunk off Alabama's Gulf Coast.
If you've always dreamed of catching red snapper or cobia, plan a trip to Alabama's Gulf Coast this summer. For more information, go to the Orange Beach Fishing Association (OBFA) at www.obfishingassn.com
. To learn about hotels, motels, and restaurants, call Gulf Shores