What's hot: Late summer is a great time to target big mangrove snapper. The larger fish gather for spawning through October over deep wrecks and other significant bottom features. Few local species are as wary of a baited hook, however. The standard heavy bottom-fishing rig for grouper seldom works.
Tactics: Chum is perhaps the most important factor. A single block of frozen chum, deployed in a bag at the surface, is enough to make dozens of snapper appear behind the boat. We use a combination of ground menhaden, chopped sardines and sand ball chum (a blend of sand, oats and ground fish). Formed into balls, it delivers chum to the bottom, leaving bits throughout the water column.
Tackle: Once the snapper appear, fish from the top down. Begin by free-lining small pieces of cut bait on light tackle. We use 30-pound braided line with at least 25 feet of 25-pound flourocarbon wind-on leader. When the fish wise up we add a splitshot or quarter-ounce jig head to get to mid depths. After that, slide a half-ounce slip sinker on the leader above a small circle hook to get to the bottom.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at lighttacklecharters.com or at (727) 944-3474.