Fishing Report July 31, 2016

Mangrove snapper top the list of catches this week

Mangrove snapper appear to be a common catch among anglers working Anna Maria Island’s surrounding waters. Whether fishing from land or by boat, mangrove snapper are dominating the bite on the reefs, flats and around any structure in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico.

The arrival of hatch bait — baby scaled sardines — always triggers this abundance of mangrove snapper. These small baits are like candy for the hungry snapper.

While targeting mangoes, anglers are hooking into Spanish mackerel, flounder, cobia and grouper — reds and gags.

Spotted seatrout are making a presence in the local waters. Throughout the deeper grass flats of southern Tampa Bay, through Anna Maria Sound and south to Sarasota Bay, anglers are catching these yellow-mouthed favorites. A live shiner under a cork or free-lined over the flats is producing many bites from trout 12-15 inches. Slot-size fish — 15-20 inches — are being caught, although the smaller fish are definitely more abundant than the keeper-size fish. You can expect to encounter Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish while trout fishing.

On my Just Reel Fishing Charters, I’m guiding anglers to the reefs for mangrove snapper. By chumming, I’m getting schools of snapper to rise up from the bottom. When this occurs, we’re free-lining live hatch bait or fresh-cut chunks of bait back in the current to the feeding fish.

I’m noticing this week the snapper are being a little finicky so to combat this. I’m scaling down to 15-pound test fluorocarbon for a leader and going down to a No. 4 live bait hook to help conceal it in the bait — so it’s not seen by the snapper’s keen eyes. The challenge with using this light leader and small hook becomes apparent when the Spanish mackerel show up in the chum. Be prepared to re-rig a lot and carry an ample amount of hooks and leader. The 15-pound fluorocarbon doesn’t stand a chance against the razor-sharp teeth of the macks. Most snapper catches are ranging 12-15 inches with fish up to 18 inches being caught every so often.