The Tampa Bay Times

Mangrove (gray) snapper are often encountered while drifting the flats or fishing rivers that empty into our Bay and Gulf this time of year as they school in preparation for spawning later. When using a typical 8 or 9 weight fly rod with size 1 or 1/0 baitfish type flies while targeting redfish and trout you detect light strikes that don’t feel like either and finally a snapper will be hooked. If one is found, many more are there. Deploy your anchoring system to hold your location. Observe the pattern that these fish are using to locate more. Probing deeper areas in grassy flats, rock piles and docks are often key locations. Switch to lighter tackle to make these tasty scrappers more fun to catch. A 4 or 5 weight fly rod with a sink tip line and a 7-foot leader tapered to 8-pound test fluorocarbon is ideal, especially in clear water. A freshwater trout setup works well. Select a small weighted size 8 fly that imitates a crab, shrimp or baitfish with the hook pointed up to avoid snags. Use a countdown method and retrieve when the fly is close to the bottom or structure. Set the hook at the slightest tap. The minimum size is 10 inches; always check current FWC regulations.

Fly fisherman Pat Damico charters Fly Guy in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at and (727) 504-8649.