I love this time of year! Big snapper are everywhere, and they’re hungry. I catch most of mine at the Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Here’s how:
Tackle: I use a Star rod and Penn reel spooled with 25 lb. Spiderwire. Terminal tackle consists of a 2 foot section of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader, a #1 offset circle hook, and a swivel. Above the swivel is a sliding egg sinker – the size depends on the current at that time. Be aware that there may be other fish lurking among the mangos, including redfish, snook, grouper, flounder and black drum, so better to be prepared just in case.
Bait: Live shrimp. The bigger, the better. I have had good luck with whitebait, greenbacks and silver Jenny’s, but nothing beats a live shrimp, hooked through the horn so it can kick freely. If the water is murky, I may tail hook them.
Techniques: Snapper love moving water. Incoming or outgoing tide doesn’t seem to matter, although high tide is better than low tide. Keep in mind that the snapper will be facing into the current, so float your shrimp back to them. They may be underneath the Pier, anywhere from the seawall out to the end, and they can also be found among the rocks and structure on the northeast side of the Pier.
The Payoff: You are allowed to keep up to five mangrove snapper per person, per day. The minimum size is 10″ overall (yes, you can ‘pinch’ the tail), but I suggest throwing back anything less than a foot. There are plenty pf smaller fish, but the big ones are there too. I have limited out every weekend for the last month, with 12″ to 18″ fish. Mangrove snapper are excellent blackened, fried, and sauteed. They freeze well if you have a vacumn sealer (and you should have one).