Deep water Snapper for Christmas

By: Capt. Bruce Andersen 

As the winter season (or the closest thing we have to winter in the Florida Keys) comes in with Christmas right around the corner, one type of fishing that I always look forward to is deep water snapper fishing. We’ve got several different kinds of deepwater snapper available to us offshore of the Keys. Vermillion snapper, yellow eye snapper, black fin snapper, and queen snapper are all different species that can be caught here. The vermillions, yellow eye, and black fin can generally be found in depths from 200 to 450 feet where the queens will usually be much deeper in water from 500 to 900 feet. You can sometimes catch a mix of all three of the shallower type on the same spot along with an occasional porgy or red grouper, where the queens will often be mixed in with tilefish and various deepwater grouper out deep. All of these snapper can be caught year round here in the keys, but I’ve always done particularly well in late fall and early winter.

I’ll usually target these fish hand cranking with conventional reels in the depths under 300 feet and switching to electric reels on the spots over 300 feet deep. My go to rig for hand cranking is a 3-hook chicken rig made up of 50-pound mono with light wire 5/0 circle hooks and usually about a pound of lead depending on how fast the current is running. I’ll use a high-speed reel spooled with 50-pound braided line and a 7-foot rod with just enough backbone to handle that much lead. A combination of squid and chunks of bonita or barracuda on alternating hooks are my favorite baits. There are days where all they’ll eat is squid and days where especially the yellow eye snapper will only eat the meat.

When you’re on the right spot and they’re biting, this type of fishing can be nonstop instant action. In addition to being a ton of fun, these snapper are some of the best eating fish you’ll find in our waters with sweet white flaky meat!

Luckily for me they usually show up just in time for Christmas. Although my name might not reflect it, I’m actually half Italian. There’s an Italian tradition of eating seven different kinds of fish on Christmas Eve called the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My grandmother lived to the age of 104 and several times over her final years she made me promise that I would carry on this tradition with my family, which I proudly do. You can usually find me hitting some hard bottom spots on the 200 to 300-foot depths a few days before Christmas. Often, I can catch 3 to 5 different species in one spot and cover more than half of what I need for the Christmas eve feast. You may want to put deepwater snapper fishing on your list this December. Good luck, catch them up and Merry Christmas from the Captain Easy family!

You can reach Captain Bruce Andersen at Capt. Easy Charters,
MM 85, call 305.360.2120 or email at: