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September 17, 2013

The Deep Gulf of Mexico Holds Tasty Rewards

Of reefs, rocks and wrecks - snapper and grouper galore.

People say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. I can add one more: All fish love structure. From the shallow rocks and wrecks off the west coast of Florida to the deep rigs of the western Gulf of Mexico — a variety of snapper and grouper call structure home.

Locating structure is as simple as looking at a chart or purchasing a book of numbers that gives the latitude and longitude for reefs, wrecks, and rocks that litter the Gulf. Even easier, pull out your binoculars, and scan the horizon for the rigs and platforms created by the petroleum ­industry, all of which are fish magnets for various species of snapper and, in the case of deeper rigs, grouper too.

By Popular Demand

It is a safe bet to say that the red snapper is one of the most sought-after species in the Gulf. In most cases, they are the easiest to locate and catch. Over the years, I have witnessed red snapper taken from shrimp-boat wrecks within yards of the Texas beachfront in less than 10 feet of water, all the way out to rigs in 70 fathoms. The fact is, if there is structure, there is a good chance there are a few red snapper around.

Go Deep for Variety

Other species of snapper such as lane and vermilion — are often found with red snapper, but none is easier to find than gray snapper, often referred as mangrove snapper. Abundant on the west coast of Florida around the roots of red mangroves and inland docks, this shallow-water snapper has started appearing in greater numbers in the northern and western Gulf, especially around rigs and wrecks.

As for grouper, most stick to deeper water, ­especially in the western Gulf, where serious grouper fishermen won’t even come off-plane until they reach 30 fathoms. The exception: gag and goliath groupers, which can be caught inshore near channels and jetties, especially in southwest ­Florida and extreme southern Texas. As a rule though, anglers targeting grouper in the Gulf encounter the more-common gag, scamp and Warsaw grouper, and other species, such as yellowedge, snowy, strawberry and black grouper, in ­deeper water.