While most anglers are sending baits down 100 or more feet to target the bottom dwelling red snapper, Capt. Jack Vasilaros does something a little more unique.
Vasilaros has begun to target them on the surface by chumming them all the way from the bottom, then hooks them using no weight and lighter tackle. It takes patience, and the right spot, but a method Vasilaros says gets the bigger fish.
“It’s something I saw people doing in the Keys for other snapper,” the full-time lawyer and part-time captain said. “I like to pioneer things, you have to have the right bottom and the right spot. A lot of my trips recently the big snapper have bit on the surface.”
For Vasilaros, the “right spot” is shallower than most anglers fish. He finds them on rock piles around potholes that he describes as ant hill bottom in less than 90 feet of water.
“A lot of people pass around numbers and you might catch some fish, but finding your own spots is what you need, Vasilaros said. "Half my numbers you won’t even see bottom but I know they are there.
“Spots with too much pressure, those fish get weary. Those fish are smart and don’t bite nearly as well. I stay away from the usual places and catch more fish as a result.”
When the fishing begins, he starts with normal rigs like a 3-ounce knocker rig with 50-pound leader. He starts chumming heavily with a variety of chunked threadfins, silversides, chum blocks and more. As red snapper rise through the water column, live sardines off the back get the action on the surface as if you were almost fishing inshore for snook.
“Once I get them chummed up I throw live bait on and they go wild,” Vasilaros described. “The fight is a lot longer than fighting them on the bottom. We’re fishing a spinning rod with 25-pound braid and 50-leader and they are ripping drag trying to get back to the bottom. It’s such a fun and unique way to target them.
“The red snapper have been almost a nuisance so I’ve had a little fun with it. I prefer catching gags but sometimes they are hard to get to with so many red snapper.”
Capt. Jack Vasilaros runs Hooked for Life Charters and can be reached through his website HookedForLifeCharters.com. His instagram is @kingsmenfishing to keep up with his adventures.