Hot snappers. Mangrove snapper are on fire. These feisty, tasty and tricky little demons are covering up every piece of hard bottom, ledge, live bottom and dock piling in the bay. Recently, I was doing a little research and development with my son and a friend and we came across about a hundred snapper sitting on the edge of a flat. We got enough for dinner and moved on. This happened at every stop.
The docks of the bay. The deep water docks near the mouths of rivers and canals are holding good numbers of fish. The ones with sailboats and deep drafting boats seem to hold more fish — and bigger ones. A regular sized shrimp has been the top bait. Break its tail off and send it out for chum. Deploy a chum bag to draw them away from the structure and closer to your boat.
Equipment tips. The trick to these bait stealers is to use a No. 2 circle hook, a 14-pound leader and a medium action rod. The light leader will get you more strikes as these fish can see really well.
Tasty catch. Mangrove snapper are easy and quick to prepare on the grill. Leaving the skin on, place aluminum foil over the grate, heat up the grill and turn the heat to medium. Place the snapper filet on the grill skin side down, season to taste — I use a mix of salt and pepper and everglades seasoning — cook for about five minutes, sprinkle brown sugar over the filet and close the lid. Allow two minutes for the brown sugar to caramelize and serve. You won't be disappointed.
Capt. Tim Whitfield can be reached at (813) 714-0889 or firstname.lastname@example.org.