Mangrove snapper still hot but harder to find
The fall mangrove snapper bite is going strong, although concentrations of fish seem to be on the move.
On a recent excursion with my father-in-law, Paul Leighton, and his friend, Earl Range, we had to do a little searching to find the bite.
After catching an ample amount of bait, we headed out toward the artificial reefs. On the first stop, we caught a couple of mangoes, but then nothing. Well, I won’t say nothing, because we ended up hooking into Key West grunts and tomtates on every drop until we pulled anchor and moved on.
On our next stop, we anchored in slightly deeper water and found the same scenario. The first few drops produced some snapper in the 15-inch range. This got our hopes up, but they were to be shattered by an abundance of grunts and tomtates, again. We hooked a large barracuda, which skyrocketed right next to us and almost landed in the boat. After that the snapper bite was non-existent.
Starting to feel the pressure, I decided to head over to one of my go-to spots for snapper. This spot was quite a distance away, but I decided to see what happened.
On arriving at the spot, we dropped some bait and caught some nice-sized snapper. But after a few fish in the 15-18 inch range, the bite stopped yet again. We still had a little chum — a half bucket of dead shiners — so I dumped some over the side and watched them slowly sink and drift away from the boat in the tide. And then, there they were: Dozens of snapper arose from the bottom and commenced to feed on the dead bait. Needless to say, we quickly switched our rigs from bottom rigs to free-lined rigs and started feeding bait to the fish in the current. The bite was on. We had three rods hooked up consistently until we limited out. After catching our limit, we caught-and-released a few more just for fun.
The ride back to Mainsail Marina was a joyous one. We were proud to be heading in with our limit of snapper and filled with the anticipation of the snapper tacos we would be eating later that evening with our families. I was joyous on the ride home because my honey-hole paid off. It was worth putting all those eggs in one basket — at least this time.