Cubera snapper fishing is a sport play, with smaller fish being great for eating. As they grow larger, they are prone to parasites and ciguatera tainting. Found on reefs, wrecks, and structures worldwide, cubera snapper are apex reef predators. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming fish, shrimp, crabs, and larger crustaceans. Their brutality often makes them mistaken for sharks when reeling in only a head.
Cubera Snapper Fishing
Cubera snapper fishing is pretty much a pure sport play. Yes, smaller fish are great eating, on par with mangrove snappers. When they get larger, however, there is an assumption that eating them is to be avoided. Fish over thirty pounds start to get some strange coloration in the meat and you may find some parasites. They are also prone to ciguatera tainting, like other warm water apex reef predators in the western Atlantic. So, larger fish are released to confound another anglers fishing endeavor. From a sporting perspective, the question is really about where does the cubera snapper stand in the hierarchy of tackle wrecking reef species?
When you think about the term reef bully or sea donkey, there are a select view species that come to mind. Names like cubera snapper, giant trevally and dogtooth tuna come to mind. Found on reefs, wrecks and various other structure throughout the world, these savage bruisers will test the absolute limitation of your tackle and your angling prowess. For the waters of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific side of Central America, cubera snapper are apex reef predators, since GT's and doggies are not found there. This smash mouth toothy snapper need worry about few other predators except sharks and every fish has to worry about sharks.
Until you have been out cubera snapper fishing, you have no idea of the challenge you will face. If you have tangled with these big snappers, then you are either resigned to not wanting anymore or the experience has hooked you for life. The bite is so savagely intense that if you don't turn the fish within the first few seconds, you will have lost. The cubera snappers first move is to head for the safety of the structure and they are heading there with conviction. You are fishing heavy gear with max drag. It is like hooking a speeding freight train.
The biggest of all snapper species, cuberas are opportunistic feeders that gorge on fish, shrimp, crabs, larger crustaceans or anything else on the structure they patrol. Their large strong teeth make them a dam formidable predator. It is open season for any creature within their domain. The brutality with which they attack often have them mistaken for sharks, when an angler reels in only a head.
I had the pleasure of learning how to battle these muscular snapper from one of the very best fishermen and nicest guys in South Florida. Captain Bouncer Smith is a legend and deservedly so. His fishing prowess will go down in the annals of sport fishing history. He has set and holds multiple world records for cubera snapper and his knowledge on the species is encyclopedic.
In South Florida, the best fishing takes place from July through September during the week that saddles the full moon. One of the elements that makes targeting this sea donkey rather unique is that they are nighttime feeders. The bite does not get going until the sun drops below the horizon. Fishing in the dark is always a tad eerie, but exhilarating, at the same time. Good bets to catch fish will be in sixty out to three hundred feet. The bigger fish will be in the deeper water. There is some really amazing structure in 150-250 feet of water off Miami.
Even though fish start showing up in numbers to spawn in June through September. The best fishing is concentrated around lobster season. Live lobsters are a favorite of the cubera snapper. They cannot refuse this bait. Dead lobsters will work, but live is the absolute best option.
Like any snapper, cubera snapper are structure oriented fish. This where they live and where you have to focus your attention. Good solid reefs, sunken ships and artificial reefs are a sure thing during the months mentioned. Due to their power and extreme desire to head for the structure upon hookup, this is also your biggest concern. How in the heck do you stop these reef donkeys from breaking you off? If not properly geared up, the average angler bottom fishing will not stop this fish before it gets into the structure.
Despite showing a marked preference for crustaceans, primarily lobster, you will catch cubera with large mangrove snapper, yellowtail and bullet bonito. Just be sure to operate within the limits of the law. If you can get your hands on live lobsters, bring as many as you can. It is not unheard of to go through two dozen baits in less than two hours. The fishing will be fast and furious.
Cubera snapper fishing is power fishing. You have zero margin for error. There is just no telling what size fish is going to take your bait. Your tackle needs to be up to the test. Recommended hooks are 7754 12/0 size. Your leader should be 150 lb monofilament. Something super durable is required.
Reels should be at a minimum 50 lb and up to 80 in cases. Tiagra, Okuma, Penn and Avet are all good choices. Rods should have plenty of backbone and a soft tip. Lifting ability is key. Whatever route you go with the tackle, it needs to be able to handle lots of heat. On the 50 class reels, 60-80 lb line is suggested and on the 80 class reel go with 100 lb. Monofilament will give you a little more comfort. You can of course go with braid, but be ready to get pulled out of the boat. I am joking of course. These are just suggestions.
The lobster rig consists of a 250 lb three way swivel that connects your mainline, bait and lead. You are open to varying any of this, but your swivel should be stout. The lead dropper should be about two feet of at a minimum 30 lb mono. You leader should be about 20-30 feet. You can go with a single hook or double hook rig. Capt. Bouncer Smith prefers the double hook rig.
If you want to educate yourself more on tactics and techniques for how to catch cubera snapper or know more about the baits, tackle and rigs, please check out our Cubera Snapper Fishing Florida video. You will be privy to some high level fishing knowledge.
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