Plenty of Other Fish in the Sea

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

Note: Governor Robert Bentley along with The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division announced Thursday (June 26, 2014) that Alabama State waters will open for the harvest of red snapper and gray triggerfish on all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in July. The bag limit will be two red snapper per person per day and two gray triggerfish per person per day. The minimum size for red snapper will be 16” total length and the minimum size for gray triggerfish will be 14” fork length. Federal waters remain closed to red snapper and gray triggerfish harvest. Please note that this weekend opening will not apply to charter boats, as they must abide by federal laws.

Crew posing with a mess of fish
The crew on the Yankee Star pose with a mess of Beeliners, White Snapper and King Mackerel.

Don’t let the red snapper closure keep you at the dock. Instead head out to some easily reachable spots and target other reef fish. Beeliners (vermillion snapper) and white snapper make for a great day of catching and are also delicious table fare.

“We have been on a great beeliner and white snapper bite since March 11th,” said Captain Pete Fill of Yankee Star Charters. Since these fish are smaller than red snapper, they are also a perfect match for young anglers. “We use spinning rods and light tackle so even a five year old can catch these fish by themselves.”

Fishing for beeliners and white snapper is similar to red snapper fishing with a few exceptions. Instead of using a one hook sow rig or knocker rig switch over to a two hook set-up with small circle hooks and a bank sinker. Unlike using big bait for big snapper, use small pieces of cut squid to catch these small mouthed fish.

Locating these fish is just as important as is how to catch them. “You want to find big structure,” says Captain Jimmy Waller on the charter boat Big Adventure. While smaller structures like chicken coops and pyramids will hold red snapper, Waller says big structure is the key to finding beeliners and white snapper. Waller says Gulf Coast anglers are lucky that we have plenty of public spots that are large enough to hold these schooling fish. “The Liberty Ships, Bridge Rubble, Trysler Grounds, and any natural bottom are usually loaded up with fish.”

Beeliners, especially the larger ones, will hold higher in the water column usually around ten to fifteen feet off the bottom. White snapper will however be on the bottom. Have your anglers alter their depths on each drop to maximize the chances of catching multiple species.

Bottom fish are not the only inhabitants of these large structures. Captain Pete says to always make sure you have out a drift line. A drift line is usually a spinning reel that is cast out behind the boat with little or no weight. It is most important that the drag is set very light so the fish can pick up the bait without feeling any resistance. Once the fish is on, slowly increase the drag to set the hook. Use either live or dead bait for this style of fishing. A whole cigar minnow has caught many big king mackerel and cobia while left unattended in the rod holder.

There are options to have an enjoyable day of bottom fishing. Captains Fill and Waller catch these fish for their livelihood and are always happy to help you catch a nice mess of fish either on their boat or your own.

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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1328 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…