The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

Mangrove snapper are now gathering in large schools for their summer spawn. Many of the offshore wrecks and tall ledges have aggregations on them right now. We have also found schools of snapper on a few special spots that have little vertical relief but have some unknown benthic appeal. Most of the fish are very big, averaging 3-5 pounds with some recent catches weighing up to 9 pounds. If they are pressured often they can become very spooky and hard to catch with regular tackle.  

When fishing popular wrecks we use very light gear and try to make our rigs as stealthy as possible. We start by establishing a chum line of ground fish and cut bait. Last week we even added our leftover scallop shells to the chum mix. To get the fish fired up with chum it is very important not to fish while getting started. You must let the fish eat and work their way up in the water column unbothered for a while. Once you can see them, start freelining with 15 pound test monofilament with 6 feet of light fluorocarbon at the end of it. Never put braided line into a school of snapper and do not drop any lines to the bottom while freelining. When the surface bite slows start adding weight to work gradually toward the bottom. Another thing we have noticed lately is that having 3 or 4 freeline rigs going can cause the fish to go deep after a while. When this happens, we take all lines out until they get back on the surface and then start to fish one or two lines at a time. 

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