Coming off a pretty good week weatherwise, despite dodging the occasional thunderstorm, it was really nice to get back out offshore a few miles. Speaking of rain, these pop-up storms that occur this time of year are no-joke. They’re a fact of life and if you want to get outdoors at all this time of year you’re going to have to deal with them. Just make sure you give them plenty of respect.
Shallow water gag grouper and mangrove snapper fishing has been pretty good over the last several days. Working ledges in 35 to 45 feet of water we’ve been able to get both species from the same spots.
Mangrove snapper fishing has really bounced back after the freeze year and can be found schooled up on almost any ledge, especially during full moon periods. Scaled sardines, a favorite bait for snapper, are loaded up all along the beaches right now. These smallish baits may not be big enough to use for snook and redfish but work excellent for snapper, just be sure to use a quarter inch mesh sized cast-net. Otherwise you’ll have a Christmas tree on your hands.
The process has been fairly simple. Drop a chum block down to the bottom directly after anchoring. Then begin breaking the pilchards up and dropping them over the side in constant flow. You should see the snapper rise to the surface within a few minutes. Then free-line your bait back with the others. It’s important to keep the flow of bait going but not to much to over feed them.
Once the snapper bite slows, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have some grouper around the chum block. Drop down live pinfish and grass grunts on heavy tackle. The fish should be fired up and won’t refuse an 80-pound leader. It’s much better than potentially breaking a fish off and losing your bite.
Gag grouper limit is two per person per day for the gulf waters and the mangrove snapper limit is five per person per day in state waters and 10 per person per day in federal waters (beyond 9 miles).
Tyson Wallerstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a fish photo in the paper, send the photo along with your name, when and where it was caught to editorial@TBNweekly.com or mail it to Tampa Bay Newspapers, 9911 Seminole Blvd., Seminole, FL 33772.