Catch-and-release snook fishing heats up under mangroves

Flats fishing around Anna Maria Island and its surrounding waters is host to some good catch-and-release snook fishing this past week.

Linesider fishing is productive for sport anglers, especially along the eastern shorelines of southern Tampa Bay.

Fishing during the higher stages of the tide is proving to be good around mangrove shorelines, where good tidal flow exists. Bear in mind that during the higher tides, snook tend to be lounging in the shade of the mangroves. This being said, if you’re not an accurate caster, you might as well go trout fishing. These snook have it made in the share and, no matter how many chummers you through out, they are not coming out of their resting places. 

When casting, you’ll need to “skip” your live shiner under the bushes as far as it’ll go. And yes, there are numerous roots and oysters and barnacles to get in your way or even cut your line, but that’s the chance you’ll have to take. And once you’re hooked up? Oh boy! 

Wrestling snook from the mangroves requires a lot of skill and a little luck. Especially if the fish is 30 inches or more.

Some strong braided line and heavy fluorocarbon leader will aid in your success, but the rest is up to you. Remember, if that fish us under the trees, point your rod tip down in the water. This helps to give your line a clear path to the fish and keeps it out of the bushes. As for the roots? Well, you can always pray to the fishing gods. Once the fish is out, you can raise the rod tip and enjoy the fight. But watch out for a second run as the snook attempts to scream out the drag and head back into the bushes again to find an oyster or barnacle to cut the line. If you’re lucky, the fish will come to the boat peacefully to be released, at which time they can return to the mangroves to wait for another meal to pass by.

Although this sounds a little stressful, let me warn you, it’s also addictive. Especially if the snook gets away. Veteran snook anglers will know the feeling. And if you’re a novice, better work on your casting skills if you want to catch a linesider.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m concentrating on snook. Casting live free-lined shiners up against and under mangrove shorelines is providing action for my clients. Most snook catches are 20-30 inches with more fish coming in at the lower half of that spectrum. 

With the vast amounts of bait present in Tampa Bay, I’m fishing for action in the deeper grass flats in 6-10 feet of water. In these areas, catch-and-release spotted seatrout are apparent as well as Spanish mackerel. In fact, the mackerel are so voracious, some of the spotted seatrout can’t get to the bait. 

Lastly, mangrove snapper are once again in good numbers on both structure and on the grass flats. With less rain, the water is clearing up, which is allowing the snapper to flourish in Tampa Bay.