Limitless amounts of mangrove snapper
Well, there may not be “limitless amounts” but I’ll bet you can catch your limit.
Mangoes are still abundant around just about every rock, dock, chunk and channel marker in Tampa Bay. Heck, they’re all around the bridges and piers and even on the flats. Most catches occurring inside Tampa Bat are 10-14 inches, although fish up to 20 inches are not unheard of, especially around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
To target these tasty rod-benders, there are a variety of rigs to choose from. When I’m fishing around docks or wrecks I’ll use a knocker rig, which consists of an egg sinker, some fluorocarbon leader and a circle hook. This rig is effective for bottom fishing and is simple to create.
If I’m chumming over the reef or a wreck in shallow water — up to 30 feet — I use an extra long stretch of fluorocarbon leader and a small circle hook – an even easier rig. The reason for free lining a small bait is to mimic the chum you are tossing behind the boat. If your bait doesn’t sink naturally with the chum, there is a good chance the snapper will detect something isn’t right and will turn their noses at it. Sometimes you can add a small split shot to the rig if you want to get your bait to sink, but I think free lining is better.
Finally, baits for Tampa Bay mangoes include small shiners — either alive or cut — live shrimp, mojarras and small pinfish. I imagine squid and other frozen baits would work too, but if you can catch your own fresh bait, that’s what I suggest.
Remember, mangrove snapper have to be a minimum of 10 inches and you can keep 5 per person per day.