What's hot: The action in Tampa Bay for mangrove snapper is the best it has been in years. Rock piles, bridges and grass flats are all holding good numbers of these tasty fish. Mangrove snapper are very shy. Even in murky, stained water, these wary fish often get lockjaw. But they can be tricked.
Downsizing terminal tackle is one of the most effective ways to fool them into biting. Usually this also means matching the size of the hook to the bait but not in this case. For these fish, the smaller the hook size the better. Remember, snapper are classified as reef fish by the state, which means only circle hooks are permitted. A size 6 or 8 circle hook would be perfect in this situation, but they're just too hard to find. So use the smallest circle available, which is usually a size 4. Also, red hooks get more bites than gold, silver or even bronze.
Weights are crucial, too. Again, the smaller the better. Use just enough weight to keep the offering in the strike zone. Pinch-on weights are best in this situation, as adjustments are fast and easy.
Tackle tips: Fluorocarbon leader material is a must, especially in shallow water. Fluoro doesn't reflect sunlight like normal monofilament and will appear transparent or invisible. In most cases, 20-pound test is sufficient. But if bites are hard to come by, switch to 15. Live shrimp and small whitebait (scaled sardines) are prime baits and won't take long to get hammered. Unless, of course, the terminal tackle is too heavy.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 510-4376.