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Snapper fishing has been the best bet for the offshore angler lately. Grouper action has been slow, but big mangrove snapper have taken up the slack. Mangroves gather during the late summer for spawning and can be found in good numbers at different depths and in the bay. Most bigger fish have been outside the 70-foot range. To catch the big snapper you have to add a little finesse to your bottom-fishing techniques. Simply dropping a big weight and a grouper rig to the bottom won't fool many snapper.

Scaling down your tackle is the first step. A 20-pound spinning outfit is all you need. Tie a Bimini twist at the end of your running line, then slide a slip sinker onto the line. Attach the double line to a 3- to 4-foot, 30-pound fluorocarbon leader using the smallest barrel swivel you can get the line through. At the end of the leader tie a 1/0 or 2/0 wire hook. Stay away from overly thick super-strong hooks; they are not necessary and only make your rig more visible.

Start out dropping small pieces of cut sardines for bait. You should catch a few; then they will wise up to the dead bait. Next, switch to small pinfish or live whitebaits. Again you should catch some; then they will quit biting. After the live bait bite shuts down, it's time to move to the next spot and start the procedure over.

It is a good idea to carry a long-handled hook remover when snapper fishing. They don't call them "snapper" for nothing.

_ Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail