Fall season has started, which means shorter runs to the fishing grounds. Grouper fishing usually takes center stage, but many overlook the abundance of snapper that invade our waters along with the grouper migration. Mangrove snapper move inshore from their deepwater, summer haunts to depths of 60-80 feet and take up residence on most wrecks and smaller ledges. Bait up with cut sardines, but a well full of live sardines or large horse minnows get better results. Fishing baits with a small fish-finder rig work well, but free-lining baits back into the chum line can produce larger fish. Yellowtail snapper also make the move into shallower waters. These fish are much more common in South Florida, but if you have the patience, you can target them the next couple of months in depths of 80-110 feet. Larger structures such as wrecks and large breaks are the target areas. Anchoring upcurrent of your spot and deploying a slow and steady chum slick works best. Baits of choice include glass minnows and medium-sized live shrimp. These fish are very leader-shy so presentation should be as small and light as possible. The use of chum blocks to lure snapper off the bottom should also draw the attention of any pelagics in the area. We usually deploy free-lined live baits off the transom while we’re snapper fishing in case any king mackerel, cobia or blackfin tuna are nearby.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.