GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Ray Markham.
With the full moon rising on Saturday, mangrove snapper will be preparing for their spawn. Tampa Bay is loaded with “mangos,” as some call them.
Night fishing is excellent for them, but daytime trips work, too. We fish for them in the lower portion of the bay on areas of hard bottom. Patches of limestone bottom or areas with “live bottom” containing shell, sponges and coral are teeming with marine life. In fact, on calm days, as you drift over these areas you can hear the snap, crackle and pop sounds similar to when you pour milk over Rice Krispies cereal. These are the sounds of barnacles, shrimp, fish and assorted mollusks in the area. When you find a place like this, stop and fish. This is where you’ll hit the mother lode.
Anglers fishing live bait or artificial lures can bring these fish away from structure and to the surface by chumming with thumbnail bits of sardines clipped with kitchen shears or by simply hanging a frozen chum block over the transom and giving it an occasional shake. If fish are there, a cloud of them will come to the chum slick.
Small scaled sardines or live shrimp are excellent baits for mangrove snapper. Match the hook size to the bait, but usually smaller circle hooks hidden in the bait will get more fish. Sizes No. 1 to No. 1/0 are about right for the mangos in Tampa Bay. They range from about 10 inches (minimum legal size) to about 3 pounds in the bay. Circle hooks are required when using natural bait.
Start with 25-pound leader on 10- to 20-pound braided line and switch to a fluorocarbon leader or scale down the leader size if the water is clear or the bite slows. Mangos are wary and might stop chewing after you catch a few. Dropping down in leader size might continue the bite.
For anglers who fish artificial lures, mangos will also hit fake baits. I’ve had good success with the DOA night glow-colored Shrimp and CAL Jigs with Shad tails rigged on quarter-ounce CAL jig heads.
Captain Ray Markham specializes in light tackle fishing with artificial lures and charters on lower Tampa Bay out of Terra Ceia. He can be reached at (941) 723-2655, [email protected] or through his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com.