Put some snapper in your mullet wrapper
An abundance of mangrove snapper is a welcome sight in our local waters.
Most artificial reefs, wrecks and rock piles in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are prime spots for these tasty fish.
To catch these snapper, a number of baits can be used. The two we use most frequently here are live shiners or live shrimp. During the summer months, you probably want to use shiners over shrimp due to the abundance of pinfish, grunts and other small nibblers that have taken up residence on the reef. The use of shrimp when these “bait stealers” are present can prove to be frustrating — at best. The small bait stealers will beat the snapper to the shrimp, resulting in using a lot of bait but not catching a lot of snapper.
For rigging, try using a generous section of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader — 4 or 5 feet — combined with an egg sinker and a circle hook. Let the egg sinker rest directly on the eye of the hook and the rig is complete. This rig is called a knocker rig.
Now, although 20-pound leader is a good starting point, you’ll have to judge for yourself if you choose to go lighter. If the water is very clear you may want to try 15-pound test. If the water is cloudy, you can probably get away with 30-pound. Hook sizes will also vary depending on the water clarity and mood of the snapper. A 2/0 circle hook works well so use that as a starting point. Then use your knowledge to experiment and see what works best based on the water conditions.
Remember, mangrove snapper have a minimum size limit of 10 inches. The bag limit is 5 per person. When targeting snapper — or any other reef species — FWC would like you to use circle hooks so don’t get caught without them if you have snapper in the cooler.