John's Journal...


Catching Black Snapper and Chumming

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: With snapper season in high gear this summer, I've collected new and better ways to catch more and bigger snapper. And there’s plenty of good news on the Upper Gulf Coast this summer. If you look at the area Hurricane Dennis went through in July, 2005, you’ll see the resulting destruction, but not nearly as much as Hurricane Ivan caused. Many of the charter boats are still up and running, however many of the fisherman normally there at this time of the year aren’t, but you should be and here’s why. Right after a major disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, like Hurricane Dennis, bottom feeders like snapper and grouper migrate. If history repeats itself, the Alabama/Mississippi Gulf Coast would have a tremendous influx of grouper and the Florida Panhandle, including the Destin and Panama City area, should have a huge influx in snapper. Right now, you have a window of opportunity to travel to the Upper Gulf Coast and catch more and bigger snapper than ever before.

Click to enlargeI love catching black snapper. You'll often take them incidentally when you fish for red snapper. But most often you'll see them coming up near the surface off the stern of a boat after you've already caught several red snapper. Black snapper shy away from lines and hooks. If you put a conventional bottom-fishing rig out on the stern, you'll rarely catch them. I try to keep a spinning rod, like the ones used to catch cobia, near me on the stern if I plan to fish for black snapper. I like to use 20- or 30-pound-test line and a bronze-colored snapper hook. I try to put the hook into a cigar minnow's mouth as far as it will go to hide as much of the hook as I can. Then I free-spool the line off the spinning reel behind the boat and watch the cigar minnow as it floats down to the black snapper. Even if I don't see the snapper take the bait, I'll continue to feed out line.

I've learned that often black snapper will drift further behind the boat than I can see, or they'll hold in water so deep that I can't spot my cigar minnow. Once the fish takes the bait, I'll let the line free-spool off the reel for about a three count until the fish tightens up the line. Click to enlargeThen I'll set the hook. Next, I'll back off the drag so that the snapper can run with only slight drag pressure and to keep from breaking the fish off. Take your time bringing black snapper in because of their strength. If you try to overpower them, they often will cut the line.


Anglers in Mississippi and Louisiana have chummed snapper for years - much longer than fishermen in the Panhandle of Florida and Alabama. Most anglers view chumming as a major hassle as well as a stinky proposition. However, two products make chumming much easier and more effective. Try a Killer Bee chum bag that comes in a frozen container and has a type of onion-sack bag inside the container filled with frozen chum. To get the chum in the water, hang the bag overboard. As the chum thaws, it leeches out through the porous sack and into the water. The wave action of the boat moves the sack up and down in the water, causing more chum to leech out each time the boat bobs in the water. Often the snapper will follow Click to enlargethe chum right up to the surface of the water. This tactic allows you to:
*see the snapper you want to catch,
* cast lighter lines without lead to the fish you hope to take,
* pick out the fish you want to cast to,
* use fly tackle to catch big snapper and
* pull the snapper away from wrecks and rigs where the fish may break you off.

For more information on Killer Bee bait, visit To learn more about fishing at Alabama’s Gulf Coast, go to, or call (800) 745-7263


Check back each day this week for more about BETTER SNAPPER STRATEGIES

Day 1: Catching Black Snapper and Chumming
Day 2: Churning Up Snapper
Day 3: Using Diamonds to Catch Snapper and Locating Reefs
Day 4: More and Bigger Snapper Drift Lining
Day 5: How to Rig for Drift Lining



Entry 309, Day 1