Red Snapper Numbers Growing Near Alabama's Gulf Coast

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources "My stepdaughter set-up a fishing trip with Captain Brian Lynch for me and the loggers I work with," says Frank Johnson of Montevallo, Alabama. "We really like fishing out of Orange Beach. This fourth weekend in October, we caught some 8- to 12-pound red snapper, 7- and 8-pound triggerfish, and some other good-eating reef fish."

Captain Lynch, captain of the "Island Girl," took the group on a six-hour trip. "We only had to go 20-miles south of Orange Beach to catch some nice-sized red snapper and triggerfish," he said. "There's a number of triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico right now, and our average red snapper weighs 8 to 10 pounds. I've never seen so many big red snapper, and red snapper is the easiest fish in the Gulf of Mexico to catch.

"You generally have to run further offshore to catch this grade of red snapper," Lynch added. "And in past years, a 6-hour trip primarily would have been for vermilion snapper, white snapper, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, triggerfish and an occasional red snapper. In the past, on a 6-hour trip, we'd catch 3- to 5-pound snapper, and most of them we'd have to throw back. But since snapper season has been closed, the red snapper not only have become more abundant, we're also seeing and catching more big red snapper than ever previously."

The number-two targeted fish for anglers on Alabama's Gulf Coast is the triggerfish. Resembling a bucked-tooth billy goat in the face, triggerfish have rough, leathery skin that some early ship builders once used instead of sandpaper. In the past, the triggerfish, if caught, was released until anglers learned to peel-back that leathery skin to reach that beautiful white fillet. Triggerfish often sell for as much as red snapper today, because of their flaky meat and delicious taste.

"We use small two-hook rigs to catch our triggerfish," Captain Lynch mentions. "Triggerfish will eat anything. You can catch them on cut cigar minnows, squid or any-other type of cut bait. But we prefer cut bonita, because they have tough, slick outer skins that are hard for the triggerfish to get off the hook. We've found that we catch more triggerfish more quickly using cut bonita than we do using other conventional types of cut bait."

At this time of year, fishing for triggerfish always has been productive. However, there are two things unusual about the triggerfish off Alabama's Gulf Coast this fall. The size limit of the triggerfish you can catch has increased and, like the red snapper and the other reef fish, the number and the size of triggerfish anglers are bringing to the dock drastically have increased.

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