Snapper After Dark

Summer is in full swing and the heat is on. Over the next few months, the snapper fishing just off of our beaches will be heating up too. With July, August and September bringing the hottest daytime temperatures of the year, I prefer to fish for snapper after the sun goes down. Certainly, various species of snapper can be caught during the day, but it’s my experience that the bigger fish bite better at night, especially a few days before and after the full and new moons.

Just a few weeks ago, I was invited to do some night time snapper fishing with my friend, Capt. Ryan Palmer. Ryan specializes in deep dropping, swordfishing, live bait, kite fishing and running custom charters aboard Family Jewell, a well equipped 25’ Contender. The wind was calm and conditions were perfect for snapper fishing. We left the dock and headed out of the inlet with a beautiful sunset at our backs.

Here in South Florida, we are very fortunate to have many wrecks and artificial reefs that hold fish. However, there are several that stand out from the crowd for Ryan. Having fished in South Florida his entire life, he has been able to dial in on the spots that consistently produce quality fish. After a short run to the secret spot, Ryan stopped the boat so we could make sure there was some good current, then positioned the boat up current so we could deploy the hook.

Besides current, the key to catching your limit of quality snapper starts with chum and lots of it. Depending on the speed of the current and water temperature, a block of frozen chum will last between 15 and 30 minutes. Once you are out of chum, the bite will likely shut off so bring plenty. Once you deploy the chum bag, give the chum some time to do its job. There’s no rule that says you can’t start fishing right away, but I always like to wait until adding another block of chum before sending my bait back. You’ll want to use a 12 pound spinning outfit spooled with plenty of line as the fish will sometimes stay back a good distance from the boat. I like to add a 3 to 4 foot length of 15 to 20 pound fluorocarbon and tie a 1/0 circle hook or yellowtail jig to the business end. If there is strong current, you may need to add a small split shot or use a heavier jig to keep your offering in the chum slick. For bait, you will want to have several options at your disposal. Silversides work well, but I’ve found that small pieces of filleted ballyhoo, bonito chunks or live shrimp will entice some larger fish to bite. Be sure to allow your bait offering to flow away from the boat at the same rate as the chum. When you get a bite, line will begin peeling off of your reel. Do not set the hook like you are bass fishing. Simply close your bail and reel until you come tight, then you can lift your rod and fight the fish back to the boat.

Capt. Ryan and I had a blast catching nearly our limit of yellowtail snapper and were surprised with a slob mutton snapper. We also caught and released at least a dozen short mangroves and half a dozen toros. If you would like to get in on the night time snapper bite or arrange a custom charter aboard the Family Jewell to fit you needs, check out and or call Capt. Ryan at 954-882-2631 and be sure to let him know that Coastal Angler sent you.

~ Gene Dyer