Fishing Report July 15, 2020

Mangrove snapper, other species taking the hook despite the heat

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be quite good for mangrove snapper. 

With the arrival of the hatch bait, the mangrove snapper are moving into our local waters in respectable numbers. Any area where structure exists — a pier, bridges, sea wall, wreck reef or rockpile — these fish will be congregating. I’m even seeing them on some of the deeper grass flats where there are traces of rubble or other debris on the bottom. 

Another follower of the hatch bait are Spanish mackerel, which also have shown up in good numbers. Fishing in Tampa Bay over structure of around the Sunshine State Skyway bridge is resulting in as many macks as one can catch. In shallower water, where grass flats meet with mangrove shorelines, oyster bars or creek mouths, catch-and-release snook fishing is quite good — especially during the early morning when the water is slightly cooler from the night before. Combine this with a strong moving tide and you have the perfect recipe to catch some linesiders. 

Once the sun gets high in the sky and the water temps rise, it’s time to move to some deeper grass flats. In these areas, catch-and-release spotted seatrout are lurking in the depths, waiting to ambush unsuspecting bait fish — you just need to make sure there is a hook in that baitfish connected to your line. 

Mixed in with the trout are Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle and ladyfish. This action can produce a great experience on light tackle spinning gear.

Lastly, catch-and-release shark fishing is still going strong. Using fresh-cut pieces of legal-sized mackerel is working great for bait. Most catches are turning out to be blacktip sharks, although don’t be surprised if you encounter a bull or hammerhead.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m getting dialed in on the mangrove snapper bite in Tampa Bay. Light fluorocarbon leaders and small hooks are resulting in limits of these local favorites. It’s still early in the bait, as most catches are falling in the 12-inch range, but catching fish 14-16 inches is not unheard of. 

After targeting the snapper, I’m letting my clients enjoy some Spanish mackerel action. This bite is about as good as it gets. Baits aren’t lasting 5 seconds before they’re chomped by a hungry mack.

Fishing the flats for catch-and-release snook is also worthwhile. On mornings when the ride and water temp is right, I’m seeing some amazing snook action. Free-lined live shiners around mangroves are meeting their destiny in short fashion. Most hookups are 20-30 inches.

Finally, catch-and-release spotted seatrout are rounding out the da over deep grass flats. This bite is especially convenient in the heat of the day when the shallow grass areas become too hot. I’m also seeing Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and mangrove snapper in the deep grass flats.