May and June are big spawning months for yellowtail and mangrove snapper in my region, and the mangroves spawn through the summer months. They’ll start grouping up on the high relief structures, particularly around the new and full moons. You can mark them on your depth recorder, usually just above the structure, but sometimes to one side of it.
The nice thing about snapper fishing in the summer months is that you don’t have to run way offshore to find fish. They’ll be in anywhere from 30 to 90 feet of water, with the larger fish usually out in the deeper stuff, although you can catch them just about anywhere.
I prefer to snapper fish at night, as opposed to fishing during the daytime because the fish are a lot more aggressive and don’t see your leaders as well. Given a choice, the full moon in May or June is going to produce the best snapper fishing in my region, but it can be just about as good even on the new moon.
For snapper fishing, you’ll want to anchor on the up-current side of the structure, not directly above it. You want to be a little bit away from the structure so you can pull the fish away from it with your chum. Because snapper are so leader shy, we use the lightest line and leader possible, so we’re often fishing with 12 pound braided line and a 10 to 15 pound fluorocarbon leader. If you hook a big fish close to the rocks, the fish will swim in the rock and break you off, so the plan is to draw the fish away from the rocks and close to the boat, so if you hook one, you have a good chance of landing it.
The key to catching a lot of snapper is to have a lot of chum, the more the better. You never want to run out of chum, because that’s what pulls the fish away from the structure and gets them feeding heavily and not paying attention to what’s in front of them, so they’re more likely to eat your bait. In May, we get a lot of fry baitfish in the area, mostly sardines, and you can net the bait up with a castnet and fill the livewells with bait. You can also use gallon-size Ziploc bags, and fill them with the chum baits and put them in the cooler. You HAVE to keep the chum baits on ice, or they’ll spoil and be worthless.
When you mark fish and get anchored in your spot, then you can put out a chum bag of ground chum to put sent and small particles in the water, and then start the chum line. Begin by throwing over the dead baits first, with the plan to get a good line of dead baits sinking behind the boat and towards the structure. The fish will follow the baits up into the water column, and then when you toss the live ones it will bring them all to the surface.
Then take one of the larger live chum baits and put it on a small circle hook—the smallest one possible, so like a #6 circle hook, and freeline it back into the chum line. Pull line off the spool as the bait drifts back so it gives the most natural presentation like It’s just drifting in the chum line with the other baits. When a spanner eats it, the line will start paying out quickly. Just close the bail, reel until you come tight and slowly lift the rod, and the fight is on!
Captain’s Tip of the Week #7 Snapper – 2015
Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report