Mangrove snapper and gag grouper cause Reefer Madness
Despite the frequent thunderstorms, fishing around Anna Maria Island is providing excitement for inshore and nearshore anglers.
In between the weather, most fishers are venturing to the nearshore reefs in search of mangrove snapper. With an ample amount of “hatch bait” available — which is perfect to target mangoes — snapper fishers are filling their bait wells.
Remember to use a 1/4-inch mesh net so you won’t end up with what anglers call a “Christmas tree.” This occurs when the bait is too small to be caught in your net and gets gilled in every opening of the mesh. The removal of baits when this happens can be time consuming and make a mess of your boat and not to mention wasteful.
Gag grouper season is open and those in search of these tackle-busters are flocking to offshore wrecks and ledges. Starting at depths of 40-50 feet is usually sufficient when hunting gags, although don’t be surprised to catch keeper fish in depths as shallow as 15 feet. Live pinfish, shiners and threadfins are producing bites.
Finally, the bite in the backcountry can prove challenging in the month of July. I’m finding decent numbers of spotted seatrout along deep grass flats in Tampa Bay and Anna Maria Sound. Make sure if you choose to fish the flats to make sure all of your ducks are in a row. Have a good moving tide, try to fish low light for cooler water temps and have a little extra patience.