Hot tip: Target summer’s mangrove snapper at structures
Mangrove snapper remain a mainstay for local fishers for another week around Anna Maria Island.
Just about any kind of structure you can find, whether you’re in Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Sound, Sarasota Bay or the Gulf of Mexico is going to hold snapper. These tasty fish are taking up summer residence around docks, piers, bridges, ledges and artificial reefs, which makes them a great species to target, primarily due to their abundance. Not to mention they also taste great out of the skillet — beer-battered and fried.
To target these fish, I’m using a simple rig consisting of 4 or 5 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader combined with a 1/2-ounce sinker, which I let slide to the eye of a 1/0 circle hook. This rig is ideal when targeting these fish on the bottom or whenever they are in deep waters.
Now, you can chum these fish, and by doing this you’ll need to remove the egg sinker from the rig I just mentioned. You see, when chumming these small snapper, they tend to rise up from the sea floor — in numbers mind you. This being said, it works better to just free-line a shiner to the fish since they are closer to the surface.
Remember, when free-lining your shiners, it’s best to either cut them in half or stun them a little, so they gradually sink with the chum.
Remember, mangrove snapper need to be at least 10 inches to be legal size. You can keep five fish per person per day. As far as the 10-inch minimum goes, most anglers start keeping fish that have reached at least 12 inches just to get a decent fillet.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting mangrove snapper around artificial reefs and other structure in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. By using small live shiners for bait, Gross is leading his clients to limits of nice-sized snapper. While targeting snapper, Gross’ clients are reeling up Key West grunts, flounder, Spanish mackerel and the occasional triggerfish.
Also while fishing structure in the Gulf of Mexico, Gross is often lucky enough to find cobia. Most are under the 33-inch minimum size but are worth catching just for the fight. These brown bombers are readily taking free-lined live shiners.
Moving onto the flats, Gross is finding good numbers of spotted seatrout. To catch these fish, he is finding deep grass flats — depths of 6-8 feet. When targeting trout in deeper water, Gross likes to add a split shot to his rig to get the bait toward the bottom, where the trout are lingering. Small live shiners are producing a bite.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore and offshore structure with good results. In areas with 30-40 feet of water, he’s finding limits of mangrove snapper near the bottom. By chumming, Girle is tempting these tasty fish to come up and feed. Once the fish are schooling and feeding behind the boat, Girle’s clients are getting a bite on free-lined whole or fresh-cut shiners.
Moving out to depths of 50-60 feet, Girle is targeting keeper-size gag grouper, as well as red grouper, using a fish finder rig baited with either a live shiner or pinfish.
Inshore fishing for Girle remains consistent, especially for spotted seatrout. On deeper grass flats, he’s casting live shiners to get a bite. Most fish are in the slot —15-20 inches — although bigger fish are occasionally mixed in.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says mangrove snapper are the primary catch this week. Pier fishers using live shiners or live shrimp for bait are catching respectable amounts of snapper. Most fish are 10-11 inches, which may be on the small side, but they’re keepers. While targeting snapper, you may catch the occasional flounder, juvenile grouper or black drum.
Spanish mackerel are turning up in the early mornings at the pier. Small white, chartreuse or pink jigs are attracting the bite. Expect to catch macks 12-15 inches and an occasional bigger fish in the mix.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle working on nearshore structure in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico for mangrove snapper. By using live shiners for bait, Lowman is reeling up good numbers of the tasty fish. He’s also finding flounder, Spanish mackerel and Key West grunts.
Moving to the grass flats of Tampa Bay and Anna Maria Sound, Lowman is finding decent numbers of spotted seatrout. By fishing deeper flats, he’s finding a consistent bite on these yellow-mouthed fish, using live shiners for bait. By adding a split shot to the rig, Lowman’s clients are getting their baits down deep, which is resulting in more hookups.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters success has accepted the blazing heat Mother Nature provides and adjusted his fishing techniques.
He says there is a lot of small “hatch bait” in the bay, so he’s downsized his hooks from a 2/0 Owner to a size 1. He suggests putting two small shiners on the hook for more appeal, and use small pinfish for bait, too.
Howard says the redfish are forming schools and providing for some rod-bending action and nice fillets for the dinner table. He’s been finding the reds in deeper water — depths of 3-8 feet.
Mangrove snapper are feeding heavily on the hatch baits and small shiners, and Howard is working over deeper structure and chumming with the hatch bait, finding limits are easy to obtain.
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