Just Reel Fishing Charters: Anna Maria Island Fishing Report July 4, 2023

Heat, mangrove snapper two things to look forward to in July

 Anna Maria Island anglers are bracing for the heat of summer as we settle into the month of July. 

Typically, mangrove snapper capture the spotlight in July, as they can be found in the Gulf of Mexico around the artificial reefs and throughout Tampa Bay and the waters to the south as they school up around structure such as bridges, fishing piers and docks. 

You might ask what makes these snapper so popular?

 The answer is easy. 

For one, they make excellent table fare. 

Secondly, in July, they become very targetable which makes them accessible to most anglers

And last, but not least, they are fierce adversaries on medium light spinning gear. 

And, if you can find a species that’s excellent to eat, can be caught readily and are super fun to catch, it’s the perfect recipe for any angler. 

When targeting snapper, you can use a variety of baits. The abundance of hatch bait —young shiners — is a good option as mangrove snapper love the small, bite-size morsels. But if you’re not skilled at throwing a cast net to catch the shiners, don’t fret — mangrove snapper will take a variety of other offerings. 

Live shrimp are always a good option. Just plan on carrying a lot of shrimp as there are many other species — such as pinfish and grunts— that are very skilled in nibbling your bait off the hook in a matter of seconds. 

If you’re fishing nearshore and offshore structure, frozen bait will work. Small pieces of frozen sardines or threadfin herring will attract the snapper to the hook, especially if you add a lot of chum to the water. 

As far as rigging is concerned, you’ll want to experiment with leader and hook sizes to see where you’ll achieve the best action. Mangrove snapper have excellent eyesight, and are quite curious so stealth and rigging is imperative. 

This is especially important when fishing in the clear shallow waters of the bays and Intracoastal Waterway. You may find instances where you’re scaling down your fluorocarbon leader size as low as 10-pound test. This seems really light, although sometimes that’s what it takes to present a bait properly without spooking the fish. Combine this with a No. 4 or No. 6 hook when getting down to the nitty-gritty. 

If you’re fishing deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll probably want to start with fluorocarbon leader in the 20-pound class as you may encounter other species, such as juvenile grouper and mackerel. 

On a final note, remember, mangrove snapper have to be a minimum of 10 inches in total length to harvest and each angler is allowed five fish for the daily bag limit. 

On my Just Reel charters, I am enjoying targeting catch-and-release snook in the back country. On average, I’m seeing between 20-30 snook caught per morning charter. 

While targeting the snook, I’m seeing redfish caught. 

Fishing deeper grass flats in the bays is yielding spotted seatrout up to 20 inches, as well as catches of mackerel and jack crevalle. Finally, I am starting to pick up a handful of mangrove snapper.