While drifting the flats for other species, mangrove snapper are often encountered this time of year as they school in preparation for spawning. When using a typical 8- or 9-weight fly rod with size 1 or 1/0 baitfish imitating flies searching for trout, reds and larger fish, a snapper occasionally will be hooked. Probing deeper areas in grassy flats, rock piles and docks are often key locations. If one is found, more are there. Use your anchoring system and change to a setup that will greatly increase your chances for success. A 4- or 5-weight fly rod equipped with a clear sink-tip line and a 7-foot leader tapered to 8-pound test fluorocarbon is needed, especially if water is clear. Select a small weighted size 8 fly that imitates a crab, minnow or shrimp. To fish close to the bottom where the fish are located, use a countdown method. After the cast, count until the line goes slack, indicating the fly is on the bottom. On your next cast, begin the retrieve sooner. Keeping the fly close to the bottom or structure gives you constant action.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.